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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
Mystery DR Congo fever kills 100
More than 100 people have died because of a fever epidemic in the centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, health officials say.

Many of the victims are people who have been in contact with the deceased, including medical staff, and who lack equipment to deal with the illness.

The latest victim was a nurse at a local hospital. She died on Thursday after taking care of infected patients.

Health officials say the medical staff had no masks and this put them at risk.

Speaking from Kananga, the capital of West Kasai region, Dr Jean-Constantin Kanow said the illness had first started three months ago, when chickens and pigs started dying - but now people were also affected.

The epidemic was affecting four villages: Kampungu, Makonono, Kaluamba and Mombo.

Funeral rites

Traditionally, people in DR Congo wash dead bodies by hand.

The doctor said that such funeral rites seemed to favour the transmission of the disease.

He said many people who attended the recent funeral of a local chief had also died of fever and dehydration.

The World Health Organisation has sent a team to take blood samples for analysis at laboratories specialising in haemorrhagic fever.

DR Congo's last major Ebola outbreak killed more than 200 people in 1995 in Kikwit, about 400km (249 miles) west of the current outbreak.

But health officials say it is too early to determine if this new epidemic outbreak is indeed a haemorrhagic fever.

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