Ebola cases in Congo rise to 17

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Sep 25, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Eight more cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), bringing the total to 17, according to news services.

The cases were confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said in Geneva, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today. She said 6 of the 17 Ebola patients have died.

The eight new cases were all from the DRC's Kasai Occidental (West Kasai) province, where the previous cases were found, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. The eight people were among 42 whose samples were tested by the CDC, WHO spokeswoman Christiana Salvi told AFP.

The CDC tests also identified seven cases of typhoid fever and one of Shigella infection, Chaib said.

About 400 people have been ill and more than 170 have died in the DRC outbreak, which began in April, according to reports. WHO officials said previously that the situation has been complicated by reports of cases of typhoid and Shigella dysenteriae type 1. Ebola cases in the outbreak were first confirmed on Sep 10.

Congolese officials have had to send patient samples abroad for diagnosis, but workers are erecting two mobile laboratories in Kasai Occidental to permit local diagnostic testing, according to a Reuters report published today. Salvi told Reuters that the labs, supplied by the United States and Canada, could be operating by tomorrow.

Chaib said the number of patients admitted to health centers and hospitals is slowly declining, according to the Reuters report.

Ebola was first recognized as a distinct disease when it emerged in the DRC (then called Zaire) in 1976. The country also had outbreaks in 1995 and 1999.

Ebola is a highly contagious virus that is lethal in about 50% to 90% of cases. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain, according to the CDC. Some patients have both internal and external bleeding. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the disease.

See also:

Sep 21 CIDRAP News story "Ebola outbreak in Congo still growing"

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