Congo announces 4 new Ebola cases in country’s northeast

A health worker was sprayed with chlorine after visiting the isolation ward at Bikoro hospital in May

Global efforts to contain a fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be thwarted by chronic violence in the region where the virus has been reported, health experts are warning.

The announcement was issued just eight days after the Ministry of Health declared the official end of an Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, some 2,500 kilometres from North Kivu.

Twenty deaths from hemorrhagic fever have also been recorded in the area, the ministry said.

Four cases of the Ebola virus have been confirmed in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials confirmed Wednesday.

A team of 12 experts from the health ministry will arrive in Beni on Thursday to set up a response operation, the ministry said, and local travel restrictions were being implemented.

Congo has dealt with Ebola for decades and this is its tenth outbreak of the virus.

North Kivu province borders Rwanda and Uganda.

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The World Health Organisation has started moving staff and supplies into the area.

Ebola is considered endemic to Congo because of its equatorial forest ecosystem.

There is no evidence suggesting a link between the latest cases and an outbreak in northwestern Congo that killed 33 and was declared over last week.

Jose Barahona, Oxfam country director for the DRC, said the outbreak presented a serious risk to communities in Beni, where thousands of people are already facing hardship. The ministry says four of six samples sent to the capital for analysis came back positive for Ebola.

However, the outbreak "is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest", it quoted Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response as saying. "This is an active conflict zone".

The flare-up, first detected in the rural village of Ikoko Impenge in northwest Congo in April, was dealt with rapidly by World Health Organization and Congolese authorities, including the deployment of an experimental vaccine given to over 3,300 people. "The major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population".

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