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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 18:28 GMT
DR Congo, Gabon fever deaths rise
Ebola victims in Uganda
Ebola killed 170 Ugandans last year
A total of 45 people are known to have died in two outbreaks of fever in two isolated places in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Gabon.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the outbreak in Gabon looks likely to be the deadly disease Ebola, although DR Congo health officials say the fever is unlikely to be Ebola, as had been earlier feared.

There is no known cure for Ebola and 70% of its victims bleed to death within days.

Hospital in Uganda
Ebola spreads through human contact

So far 17 people have died in Gabon and 28 in the DR Congo.

The WHO says a number of its local and international staff are working with the Gabon health ministry to try to establish what the mystery fever is, but warned it was difficult trying to reach the area where the virus had occurred.

Gregory Hartel, spokesman for the WHO said everything was being done to identify the disease.

"We have samples in hand - we don't know about the qualities of the samples in Gabon, and they're on the way to the lab. If the first samples were good, we might even know quite soon. But we don't know yet."

Troops have accompanied a medical team to the village of Mekambo, in the region where 66 people were killed by Ebola in 1996.

DR Congo

The cases in DR Congo have been reported in a remote village 500km east of the capital, Kinshasa, and to where a team of epidemiologists and doctors are travelling to carry out further tests and treat the sufferers.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Kinshasa say that the remoteness of Mbisangandu village means that any information reaching health officials in Kinshasa is incomplete, and it is taking longer than expected for a team of doctors and epidemiologists from the health ministry, the World Health Organisation and Medicines Sans Frontier to get there.

The village in West Kasai province is only accessible by an aeroplane flight, a journey by dugout canoe, and then a 15km walk through thick forest.

In another worrying development, five people in a village some 90km away are also feared to have been affected.

Analysis needed

Dr Mapunza Mamieza, chairman of the Ministry of Health's emergency committee, said the Ebola virus could almost certainly be ruled out, and several patients had responded well to treatment from anti-biotics.

The challenge now is to establish what the virus is, which means sending samples to a clinic in South Africa, isolating the affected communities, and getting treatment for the patients.

Rebels controlling the eastern half of the country are being asked to allow movement of sufferers and doctors across the frontline which runs close to the affected area.

Officials reported that the nearest hospital is in rebel hands.

Ebola killed 170 people in northern Uganda last year.

In 1995, 265 died in the Congolese town of Kikwit, also in Kasai Occidental province.

The disease was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the DR Congo.

See also:

27 Feb 01 | Africa
Uganda Ebola free
06 Dec 00 | Africa
Compensation for Ebola deaths
04 Dec 00 | Africa
Uganda's Ebola nursing toll
20 Oct 00 | Medical notes
Ebola and other tropical viruses
18 Oct 00 | Health
Africa's emerging virus threat
06 May 99 | Health
Ebola ruled out in Congo fever
15 Jan 99 | Africa
Fighting back at ebola
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