DRC: Ebola cases suspected in Kasai Oriental

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two cases of suspected Ebola haemorrhagic fever have been reported in Kasai Oriental, the neighbouring province to Kasai Occidental, where at least nine cases have been confirmed, according to health officials.

"We received samples from two suspected cases in the village of Mwene Ditu that have been sent to the laboratory in the United States," Benoit Kebela, the secretary-general in the ministry of health, said. Mwene Ditu is 100km south of Mbuji Mayi, the main town in the province.

“We are awaiting the diagnosis of the samples sent to the laboratory,” Kebela said.

Kebela said the suspect cases were not directly related to the epidemic that had affected hundreds of people in the village of Kampungu, in Kasai Occidental. Kampungu and its environs have been quarantined by the government to contain the outbreak.

Although figures released by various sources mention 375 cases and 167 deaths in western Kasai Province, the causes cannot be confirmed yet. Only one case of Shigella, which causes dysentery, and fewer than 10 of Ebola, have been confirmed, according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO).

"This is not the first time that we have had cases of fever associated with bleeding which are not Ebola," Kebela said.

Typhoid fever is endemic in the Congo and manifests with bleeding just like meningitis, which occurs in many parts in the country, Kebela said. Five cases of typhoid fever were confirmed in Kampungu where investigations for Ebola are ongoing.

The high number of suspect cases was attributable to panic not only in Kasai Occidental but throughout the country, Kebela said.

So far, health teams from the WHO, the health ministry and other organisations are working in the affected areas where they have set up laboratories and isolation wards.

A team of Canadian health experts from Winnipeg also arrived in Kampungu on 20 September to set up a mobile laboratory, according to a spokesperson with the WHO, Christiana Salvi.

"The mobile laboratory will allow us to conduct diagnoses in two to six hours to avoid confusion with other diseases such as Shigella or typhoid which are also circulating at the same time [as Ebola] in the region," Salvi said.

Approximately 1,850 cases, with more than 1,200 deaths, have been documented since the Ebola virus was first identified in the western equatorial province of Sudan and in a nearby region of DRC in 1976, after significant epidemics in Yambuku, northern DRC, and Nzara in Southern Sudan.

Source: IRIN
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