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Ebola toll at 31 in DRC, says UN

2012-09-14 14:08

Geneva - A deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus has killed 31 people in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, more than doubling the death toll from a week ago, the UN health agency said on Friday.

There are 69 cases in all including nine confirmed by a lab, the World Health Organisation said, and five of the deaths have been confirmed by lab work.

The Ebola virus has no cure and is deadly in 40% to 90% of cases. The disease causes severe internal bleeding.

"The situation is serious," Fadela Chaib, a spokesperson for the Geneva-based agency, told reporters.

She said it was unusual that the first person to be infected was a health worker. Normally someone working outside would have been the first, as has mostly been the case in the eight previous Ebola epidemics in DRC since the first discovery of it in 1976. This is the first outbreak in the Haut-Uele territory, in north-eastern DRC.

Authorities had said last week that 15 people had died in north-eastern Congo, where the tradition of washing and displaying of corpses before funerals spreads the epidemic. The tradition is intended to show love and respect for the deceased, but the practice also brings people into close contact with victims of the deadly virus.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders, along with WHO and DRC’s health ministry, have been conducting education campaigns in the area to warn people of the risks linked to this practice.

Doctors without Borders also is managing two quarantine centers in Isiro and Viadana and the UN has called for the creation of a $2m fund to fight the epidemic.