Ebola outbreak in Congo still growing

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Sep 21, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A disease outbreak involving Ebola hemorrhagic fever and other illnesses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is continuing to grow and may be spreading beyond the area first affected, according to the latest reports.

"Case numbers associated with the outbreak continue to rise and the situation has become further complicated by concomitant reports of cases of typhoid and Shigella dysenteriae type 1," the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement yesterday.

News services today said a suspected Ebola case has been reported in Kasai Oriental (East Kasai) province, which neighbors Kasai Occidental (West Kasai), site of all the previous cases.

On Sep 10, Congolese officials said five Ebola cases had been confirmed in the outbreak, out of 395 cases and 167 deaths. A Voice of America (VOA) report today said officials have confirmed nine Ebola cases, out of about 400 suspected cases with more than 170 deaths.

Dr. Benoit Kebela, secretary-general of the DRC health ministry, said samples from two cases in Kasai Oriental have been sent to the United States for testing, according to an Associated Press (AP) report published today.

Kebela said the samples came from near the village of Mwene Ditu, more than 300 kilometers from Kampungu, the site of the confirmed cases, according to the story. He said he didn't know of any contact between the infected people in the two areas.

Also, a number of suspected cases have been reported recently in the capital of Kasai Occidental, outside the original outbreak area, according to the VOA report.

Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman in Geneva, said no cases have been confirmed outside Kasai Occidental, the AP reported. "In a situation where people are on the lookout and are hypersensitive to anything that sweats and bleeds, we would expect to hear about suspect cases like this," he said.

The WHO reported an increasing national and international effort to respond to the outbreak. "Outbreak response field teams have been strengthened and operational bases have been reinforced and established in three towns in the affected area," the agency said.

Epidemiologists, virologists, laboratory experts, and logisticians from the DRC, the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Public Health Agency of Canada are on the scene, the WHO said.

Christiana Salvi, a WHO official in Kinshasa, the DRC capital, said Canada has sent two mobile labs, which will speed the testing of samples, according to the VOA report. Up to now, samples have had to be sent Gabon or to the CDC in Atlanta, she said.

The WHO statement listed numerous international organizations that are helping to respond to the outbreak.

But Salvi said the response teams are a long way from bringing the outbreak under control, the VOA reported. "We will be able to say that this outbreak is under control when we have all suspect cases tested, when we follow up all their contacts, and when we have all the cases isolated," she said.

See also:

Sep 20 WHO statement
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2007_09_20/en/index.html

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