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Ebola kills 3 health care workers in DR Congo, raising death toll to 9

KINSHASA, DR CONGO (BNO NEWS) -- Three health care workers in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are believed to have died from Ebola, raising the number of fatalities from the outbreak to at least nine, local and international health authorities said on Tuesday.

The Congolese Ministry of Health said it is aware of at least fifteen suspected Ebola cases, including nine fatal cases. The initial death toll given on Friday was risen to nine after three health care workers died in the town of Isiro, located in the province of Orientale which borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north and Uganda to the east.

In addition to the nine deaths in Isiro, three other suspected Ebola cases have also been reported in the town. Two suspected cases have further been reported in Pawa, about 42 kilometers (26 miles) south of Isiro, and one fatal case has been reported in Dungu, some 139 kilometers (86 miles) northeast of Isiro.

Last week, three samples from two of the victims were taken to the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in the Ugandan city of Entebbe where they tested positive for the Bundibugyo species of the deadly Ebola virus. The first case was reported on August 1 and some experts have expressed concern that the disease may spread because the towns are remote but busy and the country's health system is poor.

The Congolese Ministry of Health (MoH) has convened a national task force to coordinate the response to the outbreak and is working with international health agencies. A joint MoH, WHO and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) emergency response team is already in the area to conduct a detailed epidemiological investigation and case management.

An international team comprised of epidemiologists, logisticians, anthropologists and social mobilization officers has also been mobilized and deployed to the area. "Control activities that are being carried out include active case finding and contact tracing, enhanced surveillance, case management, public information and social mobilization and reinforcing infection control practices," a WHO spokesperson said on Friday.

The outbreak in DR Congo is unrelated to an outbreak in Uganda last month, where a different strain of Ebola killed sixteen people and infected up to eight others. Ugandan health authorities have said the outbreak there is under control, with no new confirmed cases since August 4.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease and kills its victims in a very short time, but the virus can easily be confused with many other diseases. The signs and symptoms include high grade fever, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, measles-like rash, red eyes, and in some cases bleeding from body openings.

The virus, for which there is no cure or vaccine, can spread through direct contact with body fluids such as saliva, blood, stool, vomit, urine and sweat, but also through soiled linen used by an infected person. It can also spread by using skin piercing instruments previously used by an infected person or by touching the dead body of a person who died of Ebola.

Before the outbreaks in DR Congo and Uganda, the last known case of Ebola was reported in May 2011 when a 12-year-old girl died in a town near the Ugandan capital of Kampala. Despite initial fears of an epidemic, and the Kenyan Ministry of Health issuing an alert to people living near the Ugandan border, no other cases were recorded.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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