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New Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo kills 17, said to have 'international impact

A new Ebola outbreak has killed 17 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of May 3. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The health ministry of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced on Tuesday that seventeen people have died from Ebola in an outbreak it called a "public health emergency with international impact."

As of May 3, the government said, "Twenty-one cases of fever with hemorrhagic indications and 17 deaths" had occurred in the northwest part of the country in the province of Equateur.

Two out of five samples collected from patients were confirmed to have tested positive for Ebola, which the DRC reported to the World Health Organization. With a fatality rate of fifty percent, WHO is mobilizing to act quickly to address the outbreak of the virus. The organization released $1 million from a Contingency Fund for Emergencies in order to help stop the spread.

WHO deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, Dr. Peter Salama, said, "Our top priority is to get to Bikoro [a neighboring province] to work alongside the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and partners to reduce the loss of life and suffering related to this new Ebola virus disease outbreak.

"Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease." Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations who will assist the WHO, and the response will be modelled after the methods used in a 2017 Ebola outbreak that occurred in another DRC province.

Since 1976, this is the ninth outbreak of Ebola in Congo. The virus is highly contagious and can cause organ failure as well as internal and external bleeding.

The WHO Regional Director for African, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said, "We know that addressing this outbreak will require a comprehensive and coordinated response. WHO will work closely with health authorities and partners to support the national response. We will gather more samples, conduct contact tracing, engage the communities with messages on prevention and control, and put in place methods for improving data collection and sharing."

Many health facilities in the region rely on international assistance for both services and supplies. All of the cases of Ebola reported in the most recent outbreak came from a single clinic roughly twenty miles from Bikoro.

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