A Separate Outbreak of Ebola Emerges in the Congo

Researchers think the Ebola outbreak is independent of the one in West Africa

This thread-like RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus is the cause of ebola haemorrhagic fever in humans. It takes its name from the location of the first recorded outbreak near the Ebola river in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Roger Harris/ /Science Photo Library/Corbis

The worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever faced is continuing the course through West Africa, where the death toll has now reached 1,427. Now, it's starting to look like a second outbreak of the disease has begun in the Congo, says the Globe and Mail.

Last week 13 people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of an unknown hemorrhagic fever. Now, the Congalese health minister, citing the work of government researchers, says that at least two of these deaths were caused by Ebola.

Last week the World Health Organization was quick to rebuff the notion that the deaths in the Congo were caused by Ebola. Over the weekend, however, the WHO seemed less sure, says the Globe:

[O]n Sunday, a WHO spokesman said the earlier statement was based on “premature information.” Now the global organization says it is waiting for further tests in Congo.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is far to the southeast of the outbreak that is currently coursing through Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Ebola is spread through person-to-person contact, and it's highly unlikely that the Congalese Ebola outbreak, if confirmed, is connected at all to the outbreak in West Africa. The preliminary research by scientists in the Congo thing that they're dealing with a different strain of the disease than the one killing in West Africa.

Ebola first emerged in the Congo in 1976, and this outbreak would be the country's seventh, says the Globe and Mail.

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