Ebola has struck an area in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with at least two confirmed fatal cases, but authorities say it is not the same strain as in West Africa, according to media reports and the World Health Organization (WHO).
DRC Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi announced on state television yesterday that 2 of 8 samples from patients in Djera, in the Boende region of Equateur province, tested positive for Ebola, according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday. The story described the cases as fatal.
Kabange said officials believe Ebola has killed 13 people in the region, including five health workers, according to the story. He said 11 people were sick and in isolation and that 80 contacts were being traced.
"This epidemic has nothing to do with the one in West Africa," Kabange said.
Further test results expected
The DRC's national laboratory reported that the Ebola strain is different from the one causing the epidemic in West Africa, the WHO said on Twitter yesterday. The agency said the government is "organizing" further tests to better characterize the strain.
More test results were expected today, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said yesterday on Twitter. He said there "could be 2 different strains here, meaning two different events/outbreaks."
The WHO said earlier that an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis was the cause of 70 deaths in the Boende region in recent weeks. In Twitter comments last week, Hartl said those deaths were not from Ebola, but yesterday he tweeted that he had been given "premature information from the field." He said samples had tested positive in the DRC lab and the tests would be checked by another lab.
DRC's seventh Ebola outbreak
Djera is a collection of villages more than 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from the DRC capital, Kinshasa, and more than 600 kilometers from the provincial capital, Mbandaka, the AP reported.
Confirmation of Ebola prompted the DRC to deploy a response team to the affected area immediately, working with the WHO and other partners, the WHO said yesterday.
The DRC has had six previous Ebola outbreaks since the disease was discovered there in 1976, according to WHO data.