At least one person has died from the Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of Congo, the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, signaling a new outbreak of the disease which killed thousands in West Africa.
The Congo Ministry of Health notified the WHO of nine suspected cases of Ebola in the Aketi territory, in the northeastern province of Bas-Uele, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.
"We need to take this very seriously", Lindmeier said on Friday.
The Ebola virus disease was first identified in the DRC in 1976, and since then, a total of nine outbreaks have occurred in the country.
Ebola virus disease has a high mortality rate, up to 90 percent in some cases. That is the same strain that was responsible for the massive West African outbreak in 2014-2015.
The epicenter of the crisis - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - have all been Ebola-free since at least June of past year. Among the 5,837 people who got the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded.
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Developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed by the drug companies New Link Genetics and Merck, rVSV-SEBOV showed promise in a study published in the Lancet last December.
That experience helped Congolese authorities respond effectively to an outbreak in 2014 that killed 49 people.
In response to the letter, WHO authorities are coordinating efforts to deploy "health workers and protective kits in the field to strengthen epidemiological surveillance and rapidly control the outbreak". More than 28,600 people were infected then, with more 11,300 deaths.
The current suspected Ebola cases in the DRC have some wondering if perhaps the virus was lying latent and has now reemerged as a "flare", a term World Health Organization uses to describe small clusters of cases that ignite from Ebola survivors.
The vaccine was tested in a trial involving almost 12,000 people in Guinea and Sierra Leone during 2015 and 2016.