EBOLA OUTBREAK CONFIRMED IN CONGO
18 Feb 2003
Source: BBC News, February 18, 2003
Ebola outbreak confirmed in Congo
The government of Congo-Brazzaville has now confirmed that it is the deadly Ebola virus which has claimed the lives of 64 people, in the north of the country near the border with Gabon.
The World Health Organisation in Congo says it is hopeful that international aid to fight the spread of the virus will now be forthcoming.
For the past four weeks the number of dead in the districts of Kelle and Mbomo has continued to climb daily, as the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation have struggled to contain what they suspected was an outbreak of Ebola.
Confirmation came late last night, after blood samples from residents of Kelle were analysed in a Libreville laboratory, one of less than 10 in the world able to test for Ebola.
Emergency teams of medical workers and Ebola experts from the WHO are already in place in the outbreak zone.
The government closed down the region to travel on Thursday and Gabon has shut its nearby border.
But Dr Lamine Sarr, country director of the WHO says the official confirmation means appeals for international aid to deal with the outbreak should now be answered.
The WHO and Congolese government desperately need funds and food to help the people of Kelle and Mbomo.
The isolation techniques used in containing the Ebola virus are expensive and with the border to Gabon closed, the local population has nowhere to buy food.
The Congolese Government has already appealed to the United Nations World Food Programme for help.
But only last month, the WFP warned that it was already hopelessly overstretched in providing food aid for 60,000 people who have fled ongoing fighting in the Pool Region of Congo.
But money and food are not the only problems WHO and Congolese government face in containing the Ebola outbreak.
Dr Sarr of WHO told the BBC that residents in the outbreak zone are still unwilling to co-operate with the medical teams.
Only one person with Ebola out of 16 confirmed cases, has agreed to be hospitalised.
There is little understanding of the virus among the local population, who believe the recent deaths are a result of sorcery or something brought in to the area by the medical teams.