WHO says no Ebola deaths confirmed in Congo

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that no deaths from the Ebola virus had been confirmed in a reported outbreak of the disease in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Spokesman Gregory Hartl said that of 35 suspected cases — including 11 deaths — in Western Kasai province, only two were confirmed as Ebola, and both these patients were still alive.

“It seems pretty certain that other diseases are also involved,” he told Reuters. Strigellosis, a relatively easily treated bacterial disease like cholera, was likely to be one of these, the spokesman added.

On December 25, DRC Health Minister Auguste Mopipi Mukulumanya said analysis of blood and stool samples taken in the village of Kalwamba at the heart of the apparent outbreak had shown that an Ebola epidemic was under way.

The virus, which is highly contagious and causes vomiting, diarrhea and, in many cases, both internal and external bleeding, was reported in the area on November 27.

Hartl said some of those who had fallen ill in Kalwamba were responding to treatment with antibiotics, which are useless against Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever for which there is no known cure and which kills 50 to 90 percent of its victims.

A major Ebola outbreak in the DRC, then known as Zaire, in 1995 killed 250 out of the 315 people known to have been infected, including health workers who touched infected blood.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

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