Congo has confirmed that 17 people have died of Ebola sparking fears of a new outbreak.
The revelation has caused concern that the deadly virus could be back just a few years after it swept across West Africa between 2014 and 2016, killing at least 11,000 people
Jean Jack Muyembe, head of the national institute for biological research in the Democratic Republic of Congo, confirmed the news today.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s.
The World Health Organisation said in a statement: “This is DRC’s ninth outbreak of Ebola since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976.
“In the past five weeks, there have been 21 suspected viral haemorrhagic fever in and around the iIkoko Iponge, including 17 deaths.”
The latest incidence of the disease comes less than a year after the central African country’s last outbreak, in which eight people were infected of whom four died.
Congo’s vast, remote geography gives it an advantage, as outbreaks are often localised and relatively easy to isolate.
In West Africa, an Ebola outbreak that ended two years ago killed more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it rolled through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia before finally being contained.
It was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976.
Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying, as it infects other animals it shares trees with such as monkeys. It often spreads to humans via infected bushmeat.
In March last year, Sierra Leone was finally declared Ebola-free, like its neighbours, but the disease stripped already poor families of breadwinners and left countries with thousands of orphans.
With many forced to take in the orphans of their relatives and neighbours, they simply cannot cope.
British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who made headlines around the world after she contracted the disease while working to treat the sick, made her first brave return to Sierra Leone this time last year.
Horror photos show what is now the ghost town of Lunsar with its crumbling homes and eerie, echoing rooms, which left Pauline stunned.
“I didn’t expect to see this so long afterwards,” she whispers. “The stigma must be keeping people away. They’re afraid.
This is the side of Ebola I did not see when I worked in the treatment centre. Then, I couldn’t go into the community. I can imagine it now, a family living here and what they suffered.
“I can see men carrying the dead out in body bags. This is very real, very human. These are the people I couldn’t save.”