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World Health Organization confirms Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

14 May 2017

There is an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization announced Friday. According to Reuters, three have died from the fever so far, but only one of those cases has been confirmed as Ebola.

"We urge you not to give in to panic", Congo Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga told the country in a televised address. The health ministry also reported a "lab-confirmed" case on Twitter.

Prior to the new Ebola case, the Canadian government already had an advisory warning against all non-essential travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo "because of the current political and security situation".

The location of the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Likati health district (Aketi, Bas-Uele province) is situated more than 1300 kilometres from Kinshasa in the northern DRC. The affected region is about 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) from the Country's capital, Kinshasa.

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The 2014 outbreak in DRC was unconnected to the epidemic in West Africa, which killed thousands and became the worst Ebola outbreak on record.

Statistics from health bodies put the number of deaths from the last Ebola outbreak in West Africa at 11,000 in 2014-2015, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The virus was first detected in the country's tropical forests in 1976, and was named after the river Ebola.

That experience helped Congolese authorities respond effectively to an outbreak in 2014 that killed 42 people.

"The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this goal", he said.

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Ebola occasionally jumps from animals including bats and monkeys to humans - and without preventative measures, the virus can spread quickly between people. None is yet approved for sale, in part because the vaccine candidates were not ready for testing until the West African Ebola crisis was on the wane.

During that outbreak, which was declared a "public health emergency of global concern" by the WHO, the Western Hemisphere also saw its first Ebola patients.

Among the questions that they will assess is whether to recommend the use of the Canadian vaccine.

That would require the approval of the World Health Organization, which has not decided whether to call on the approved experimental vaccine or others in development, says World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jašarević.

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The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published in 2016.