Two Ebola-related deaths have now been reported in the northern town of Gera (Djera), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRoC). The town is approximately 750 miles from the capital city of Kinshasa.
WHO had said on Thursday that the mysterious disease, which had killed at least 70 people in that region, was a kind of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, according to Reuters. But Congolese officials stated Sunday that of eight samples tested, two were positive for Ebola.
The country’s health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi said they believe at least 13 people in the region have been killed by the virus, including 5 healthcare workers, and declared an Ebola emergency for the country.
“We’re going to provide essential medication in all medical institutions in the area of Gera but also free health treatment for the duration of the epidemic,” said Numbi.
Sudanese Strain vs. Zaire Strain
Officials further stated that their own in-country testing showed that the Ebola strain in DRoC is different from the one involved in the West Africa outbreak.
Numbi said that one of the two cases that tested positive was for the Sudanese strain of the disease, while the other was a mixture between the Sudanese and the Zaire strain. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is from the Zaire strain.
“This epidemic doesn’t have any link to that which is now happening in West Africa,” Numbi said, according to reporting from CNN.
Confirmation Testing Underway
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently awaiting confirmation testing on the samples, and stated results are expected today.
WHO Press Secretary Gregory Hartl said it was essential to determine whether there is a connection with the epidemic in West African countries, which has already claimed more than 1,400 lives.
Confirmation of a different strain in DRoC would imply the cases there have arisen from another animal source, rather than being transmitted by human contact from West Africa.
This marks the seventh outbreak of Ebola in Congo, where the disease was first discovered in 1976.
“The experience acquired during the six previous epidemics of Ebola will contribute to the containing of this illness,” Numbi said.