EQUATEUR, Democratic Republic of Congo, Wednesday August 267, 2014 – The first Ebola cases outside West Africa since the outbreak there began in March have been reported by authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Several people in the Equateur region in the DRC’s north-west have died in the past month after contracting “an unidentified fever.”
According to Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi, two of the fever victims had tested positive for Ebola, and a quarantine zone would be implemented in a 100-km radius in Boende where the cases had occurred.
The health minister noted that this marked the seventh outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, where the virus was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River.
While Numbi added that further tests were being carried out, it is thought to be unlikely that the DRC cases are directly linked to the West African outbreak, with a different strain of the deadly virus suspected.
So far, nearly 3,000 people in West Africa are known to have been infected with Ebola in the current outbreak, the speed and extent of which has been described as “unprecedented” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While there is no known cure for the killer disease, some infected people have recovered after taking an experimental drug, ZMapp, supplies of which have already been exhausted.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone parliament has passed a law making it a criminal offence to hide Ebola patients. Persons caught concealing victims will face up to two years in prison if the move is approved by the president.
In other attempts to stem the advance of the disease, the Ivory Coast has closed its land borders to prevent the spread of Ebola to its territory. The country has already imposed a ban on flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the West African countries worst affected by the virus.
Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal and South Africa have taken similar measures.
Ebola is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, with up to 90 percent of cases resulting in death. It is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bloodily fluids including sweat.