Democratic Republic of the Congo declares new Ebola outbreak

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Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed two cases of Ebola in the northwestern town of Bikoro and at least 10 more cases are suspected, the head of the national institute for biological research, Jean Jack Muyembe, said on Tuesday.

"Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an global public health emergency", the country's health ministry said in a statement.

They named the virus after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo - then known as Zaire - that was close to the location of the first known outbreak.

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There have been 21 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever in the affected region, including 17 deaths.

Ebola is a serious illness that is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through the bodily fluids of people who exhibit symptoms.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement today that the new outbreak is located in Bikoro, in Equateur province on the shores of Lake Tumba. "Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease", he said. The WHO released $1 million from its emergency contingency fund to support the response over the next 3 months, and it has set up its incident management system to funnel staff and resources to the outbreak area.

Health facilities in Bikoro are basic and heavily reliant on global organisations for supplies.

The WHO described the outbreak as "a public health crisis of worldwide importance". 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.

An effective response to the 2017 EVD outbreak was achieved through the timely alert by local authorities of suspect cases, immediate testing of blood samples due to strengthened national laboratory capacity, the early announcement of the outbreak by the government, rapid response activities by local and national health authorities with the robust support of worldwide partners, and speedy access to flexible funding.

The global health organisation says it has released $1m (£738,000) from an emergency fund and has deployed more than 50 experts to work with officials in the DR Congo.