New Ebola outbreak kills 20 in Congo

A health worker was sprayed with chlorine after visiting the isolation ward at Bikoro hospital in May

"As Ebola Virus Disease is endemic in several parts of the country due to the equatorial forest ecosystem, the Ministry of Health has already strengthened its epidemiological surveillance system in all risk areas, including North Kivu", the ministry said in a statement.

The health ministry said there were 26 cases of hemorrhagic fever in the North Kivu province, including 20 deaths.

He added that there is no indication that the outbreak is related to the epidemic in Equateur province, which is 1,500 miles away, that was declared over by the World Health Organization on July 25.

A team of 12 experts from Congo's health ministry will arrive in Beni on Thursday to set up a mobile lab, the ministry said.

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The response to Congo's previous outbreak was considered a success despite the 33 deaths, as the use of a vaccine made by Merck helped contain the virus.

The earlier outbreak was tackled with 3300 doses of an experimental new vaccine.

Researchers have not yet identified the particular strain of ebola causing the new outbreak.

Four of six samples later tested positive for the haemorrhagic virus. Travel into and out of the village has been blocked. "This is an active conflict zone".

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Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC's Regional Director for Africa, said: "We anticipate an extremely challenging operational environment, given the fact that the presumptive outbreak is occurring in an area affected by conflict, and that is close to both a major population centre and an global border".

The latest outbreak is the 10th in the DRC since 1976, when it was discovered in the north of the country, then called Zaire, and named after a river nearby.

An outbreak concentrated in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea killed at least 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016.

Vianney said this was the first time Ebola had been declared in the area and "our people don't know how to protect themselves".

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The region is near the heavily trafficked border with Uganda and Rwanda and two of Africa's best-known wildlife parks, Virunga and Rwenzori.

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