May 18, 2005 (CIDRAP News) Ebola virus has been found in a sample from one of the nine people who have died in a hemorrhagic fever outbreak in the Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.
Eleven cases have been reported in Etoumbi and Mbomo in the Cuvette Ouest region of the Congo Republic. One of the cases was laboratory-confirmed by the Centre International de Recherches Medicales de Franceville (CIRMF) and the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD) in Gabon. The other 10 are epidemiologically linked to it, WHO said.
The number of contacts being monitored has risen in recent days from 62 to 81, with 68 in Etoumbi and 13 in Mbomo, WHO noted.
Workers from the Ministry of Health, the WHO Regional Office for Africa and Medecins Sans FrontieresHolland are conducting surveillance, tracking contacts, and educating residents about Ebola in the affected districts, WHO said.
The outbreak began in late April, after elephant hunters encountered and ate a dead chimpanzee in a forested region near the border of Gabon, the BBC reported today. That's also where the 2003 outbreak hit, Reuters said.
Ebola is a highly contagious filovirus that can cause a gruesome death following hemorrhaging and is lethal in 50% to 90% of cases. Although there is no treatment and little is understood about its animal reservoir, contact with primates has been known to precipitate human outbreaks. The Congo Republic and neighboring Gabon have had several Ebola outbreaks, which have killed about 360 people since 1994, Agence France-Presse reported.