Forces unite to tackle latest outbreak of Ebola in the Congo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says another outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed at least five people.

An outbreak of the deadly virus recently killed over 100 people in central DR Congo says the WHO and many more became sick.

The last major incidence of the disease was in Uganda in 2001 when more than 400 cases were reported and more than half of the patients died.

To date according to the WHO there have been 372 cases and 166 deaths associated with the current outbreak in the province.

Blood samples from this latest outbreak in the southern province of Kasai have been sent to laboratories which specialise in tracing haemorrhagic fever in Gabon and Atlanta (USA).

Scientists suspect some deaths could have been from the bacteria Shigella, which causes dysentery; this presents an added complication, particularly with regard to rehydration and antibiotic treatment and more samples have been taken for further laboratory analysis.

A mystery virus which appeared in several villages around Kananga, the capital of West Kasai region three months ago sickened many and emergency response teams supported by the WHO are now being sent to DR Congo to try to contain the outbreak.

Extra medical staff, outbreak response equipment and supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment are being sent to the area, along with a team of national and international experts.

They will try to implement control strategies for the Ebola outbreak and support outbreak field response in the province.

Médecins Sans Frontières too has deployed clinicians, water and sanitation experts and logisticians to the area and has established appropriate isolation facilities.

The Ebola virus is untreatable and almost always fatal and is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons; it can also be transmitted by eating infected bush meat.

It has an incubation period of two to 21 days and is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat.

This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Additional support from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network has been called for and the WHO is also working with the INRB, CIRMF, CDC, Atlanta and the Public Health Agency of Canada laboratory in Winnipeg to ensure the Democratic Republic of the Congo ministry of health is provided with comprehensive laboratory support in the control and investigation of the outbreak.

The WHO says at this stage there is no need for any restrictions on travel or trade with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be applied.

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