Ebola is suspected to have caused as many as 33 deaths during the latest outbreak of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the health ministry said.
Thirteen cases of the virus were confirmed across northeastern North Kivu province and neighbouring Ituri province, DRC’s health minister saidin a statement on Saturday, with another 30 “probable” cases registered.
Three people were confirmed killed by the virus and 30 suspected Ebola deaths are being investigated since the outbreak was declared on Wednesday.
Laboratory examinations aimed at determining whether the “probable” cases tested positive for Ebola, which has no proven cure, were ongoing.
Almost 900 “contacts” – meaning people who may have come into contact with an infected person – have been registered by the health ministry.
Vaccinations were being deployed to the city of Beni, in North Kivu province, the statement said.
However, an “active conflict” in the area could prove to be a “major barrier” to health workers safely accessing the affected population, Peter Salama, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, warned last week.
WHO released $2m from its contingency fund for emergencies to help fund DRC’s response to the newest outbreak.
North Kivu, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, is a resource-rich province in which more than 100 armed groups operate, according to Human Rights Watch. More than one million people are displaced there.
The security situation in the province made any response planning “complex”, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
“Even though we have access to the towns of Mangina and Beni, we don’t know to what extent we’re going to have to rely on armed escorts for broader contact tracing outside those small towns,” Jasarevic said.
“That’s going to be a critical determining factor in our ability to respond.”
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