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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 15:07 GMT
Congo gets 'Ebola' samples
Ebola ward
Ebola has killed hundreds of people in central Africa
At least 48 people are now known to have died in a suspected outbreak of Ebola in the north of Congo-Brazzaville, near the border with Gabon.

There is no cure for Ebola, which causes up to 95% of its victims to bleed to death.

The authorities in Brazzaville have not yet been unable to confirm the virus is the cause of the deaths.

But the ministry of health says it has now obtained blood samples from five of the deceased.

At first inhabitants of the villages of Kelle and Mbomo where people have been dying daily in recent weeks, refused to co-operate with emergency teams from the ministry of health and the World Health Organisation (WHO), sent to investigate a possible Ebola outbreak.

Instead they accused the health teams of bringing the virus to the area themselves, and refused to give blood samples from their dead.

Wild game

The samples have been sent from Kelle and Mbomo, 800 kilometres north of the capital, Brazzaville, to a laboratory in Libreville, Gabon, and results of the Ebola tests are expected within the next five days.

Gorilla
Doctors say the virus can spread through infected bush meat

In the meantime, the ministry of health and the WHO are treating the deaths as a confirmed Ebola outbreak and taking measures to contain the spread of the virus, which is easily passed by contact with body fluids and between humans and animals.

The ministry says its emergency teams have now succeeded in convincing inhabitants of the area to stay away from church and not to travel.

The teams are also trying to stop people in the region from eating wild game such as gorilla, gazelle and antelope.

These are among the animals which have been dying off in the surrounding forest and have already tested positive for Ebola.

Ebola killed 43 people in Congo and 53 others in neighbouring Gabon between October 2001 and February 2002.

The WHO says more than 1,000 people have died of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976 in western Sudan and in a nearby region of Congo.

See also:

08 Feb 03 | Medical notes
05 Feb 03 | Africa
18 Dec 02 | Health
16 Jan 02 | Africa
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