Congo Ebola Outbreak Assessed by Government, UN Agency

(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization and their partners are assessing the extent of an Ebola outbreak in North Kivu province, a region in the northeast that’s home to more than one million displaced people and the site of at least 38 suspected cases.

Of the cases, 13 are confirmed and 25 are probable, the Geneva-based organization said in an emailed statement Sunday, citing figures from Friday. Other probable cases have been detected in neighboring Ituri province, it added. North Kivu, which shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda, is an area of frequent cross border movement due to trade activities, according to WHO.

“The prolonged humanitarian crisis and deterioration of security situation is expected to hinder response to this outbreak,” WHO said. “The public health risk is considered high at the national and regional levels, and low globally.”

It’s the second time the African nation has battled the hemorrhagic virus this year. The health ministry last month declared an end to an initial phase of the outbreak that killed 33 people in the western part of the country. Congo declared an outbreak in the Equateur province in the northwest part of the country on May 8.

The United Nations health agency last week said it had shifted its Ebola crew from the northwest to the northeast in Congo, allowing for a “head start in response” to the new epidemic. The area is a “active conflict zone,” where safety accessing the affected population will be the major barrier, it said at the time.

The Congo health ministry plans to deploy a vaccine made by Merck & Co., which was used for the first time to tackle the outbreak on the other side of the country. The “ring vaccination” campaign immunized more than 3,000 people who had been directly and indirectly exposed to patients confirmed to be infected with Ebola.

There are 3,220 doses in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, which can be dispatched once it can be guaranteed they can be stored at a sufficiently low temperature, the ministry said.

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