Officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are confirming that a new outbreak of the Ebola virus has already left 17 people dead in the northwestern part of the country.
DRC health officials stated that 21 people so far have shown symptoms of the virus and that this outbreak is a “public health emergency with international impact,” AFP reports.
Personnel from the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontieres traveled to the DRC on Saturday to investigate the 21 suspected cases of Ebola. Medical teams drew blood samples that were sent back to a lab for testing. Of the five samples drawn, two tested positive for Ebola-Zaire.
This latest outbreak comes just two years since the worst Ebola outbreak on the planet which left 11,300 people dead. Officials from the DRC say they have been able to contain the outbreak relatively quickly.
“Since notification of the cases on May 3, no deaths have been reported either among the hospitalized cases or the healthcare personnel,” the DRC Health Ministry said in a statement to Reuters. Officials also confirmed that they have not yet used the new Ebola vaccine which was just recently approved.
While so far the outbreak is contained to a small village named Ikoko Impenge, near the town of Bikoro, officials worry that because of the village’s close proximity to the Congo River, the disease may still spread. Downstream from Ikoko Impenge lie the capital cities of both the DRC and the Congo Republic.
Stopping the virus from spreading further is now the top priority of the WHO.
“Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the WHO’s Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response.