An Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month has left three people dead and several others sickened, the World Health Organization announced on Friday.
The Minister of Public Health of Congo informed the WHO on Tuesday of the outbreak in the Likati health district, located north of Congo and boarding Central African Republic. Since April 22, there have been nine suspected cases of Ebola and three reported deaths.
Six people remain hospitalized.
Five blood specimens were analyzed, with one testing positive for the Ebola virus, the Minister of Public Health told the WHO on Thursday.
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“An investigation team led by the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO and partners has deployed and is expected to reach the affected area in the coming days,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO Executive Director for Emergencies, said on Friday.
The WHO later tweeted the response teams should be arriving in Congo between Friday and Saturday.
Though Likati health district is located in a remote area, health officials said it is taking the outbreak seriously and working to contain it as quickly as possible. About 70 percent of Congo’s population has little or no health care access, according to the U.S. Agenccy for International Development.
The virus first spread to humans through close contact with infected animals such as fruit bats and monkeys. If can spread quickly among people if its not contained and 90 percent of cases are fatal.
The first Ebola outbreak in Congo occurred in 1976, according to the WHO. Since then, there have been eight other outbreaks. The last recorded one in the country was in August 2014 in Boendi, during one of the biggest outbreak of the virus in West Africa. More than 11,000 died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2015.