- As of today, the Ministry of Health of Congo Brazzaville has reported 11 cases of Ebola in the Cuvette Ouest Département, in north-western Congo. All the eleven persons are already dead, Brazzaville authorities say.
The Brazzaville government today officially has declared the epidemic in Cuvette Ouest as "due to Ebola haemorrhagic fever". Health Minister Alain Moka said that laboratory testing carried out in neighbouring Gabon had confirmed the diagnosis of Ebola in clinical samples.
After reports of a possible Ebola outbreak in the province, a Congolese Ministry of Health team last week left for field observations to assess the situation and to collect clinical samples for diagnosis.
Samples from eleven diseases Congolese citizens were tested by the Institut de Recherches pour le Développement at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville in Gabon. The test concluded on Ebola in one case particularly studied, while the ten other cases were preliminary concluded to have been of the same origin.
A National Coordination Committee to contain the outbreak has been established in Brazzaville under the Direction Générale de la Santé. The Committee is assisted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international partners, the WHO today reported.
The Congolese government had "requested the assistance of WHO in controlling the outbreak," the UN agency said. "The WHO Regional Office for Africa dispatched the West Africa sub-regional epidemic response team which has arrived in the Cuvette Ouest region," its report added.
The Cuvette Ouest region - located in an isolated part of the Congolese rain forests close to the Gabonese border - is among the regions most often hit by the Ebola virus in the world. The current outbreak is centred around the town of Mbomo, exactly where an Ebola outbreak occurred early last year.
More than hundred persons were killed in last year's outbreak. An investigation into the cause of last year's epidemic concluded on the handling and consumption of dead gorillas. Bush meat is an important source of food in these isolated parts of Congo.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the disease, which is often characterised by the sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, limited kidney and liver functions, and both internal and external bleeding.
The virus, which was first discovered in the 1970s, has two different strains, characterised by their different mortality rates. The South Sudan strain, which usually hits in East Africa, has a mortality rate of around 50 percent but is the most contagious.
The so-called Zaire strain of the virus - which normally occurs in the two Congos and Gabon - is the most lethal, with a mortality rate of 70-90 percent. This strain is however somewhat less contagious, meaning that outbreaks burn out quicker and normally leave a lower total death toll.
During the last years, it has also been shown that the response to an Ebola outbreak is decisive to control the death toll. Quick and massive actions from authorities and international health workers may hinder an uncontrolled spread of the outbreak, while an adequate health care and good nutrition for the infected may lower mortality.
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