New outbreak of Ebola kills 17 in northwest DR Congo

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today declared a new Ebola virus outbreak in a northwestern province, with two confirmed cases so far, coming nearly a year since the country's last outbreak began in a different remote location.

The latest incidence of the disease comes less than a year after the central African country's last outbreak, in which eight people were infected of whom four died.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared a new outbreak of Ebola Tuesday, after two samples taken from patients tested positive for the deadly disease that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa and sparked a worldwide panic earlier this decade. The cases were reported from Ilkoko Iponge health facility, about 18 miles from the town of Bikoro (see Google map below), which has very limited health facilities and few supplies.

It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s.

DRC's last Ebola outbreak ended in July 2017, this was 42 days after the last reported case of Ebola was confirmed.

The virus is handed on by contact with bodily fluids - touching a sick or dead person is a well-known source of infection.

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Ebola was first identified in 1976 by a team led by a young Belgian microbiologist, Peter Piot, who later founded UNAIDS, the United Nations' spearhead agency against HIV/AIDS.

Prior to the 2017 outbreak, DRC faced a 2014 outbreak in which nearly 50 people died. It most harshly affected the countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. One of the reasons for the size of the 2014 outbreak was the slow response of the World Health Organization for which it was criticized.

The WHO said it is working closely with the DRC's government to quickly scale up operations and response, similar to that involving an Ebola outbreak in 2017 in the remote northern Bas-Uele province that resulted in four deaths and another four illnesses. Bats are able to host Ebola virus without risk of death.

It is then passed on to other animals, such as monkeys, the bats share trees with.

Ebola is spread between humans in a variety of different ways.

It is caused by a virus that has a natural reservoir in the bat, which does not itself fall ill, but can pass the microbe on to humans who hunt it for "bushmeat".