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WHO Helps Fight Deadly Ebola Outbreak In DR Congo

9/6/2012 6:08 AM ET

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that its team was assisting the government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in that African country.

In a news release, WHO said it had deployed epidemiologists and logisticians to support the DRC's Ministry of Health in combating Ebola, which had already claimed 14 lives.

WHO said its team was also working closely with other international aid agencies and charities like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to coordinate response efforts, monitor the situation, and provide information of the disease to the population.

The U.N. health agency noted that a total of 28 Ebola cases, including 14 deaths, have been reported in DR Congo's north-eastern Haut-Uele district so far. Three of the dead were health care workers in the district capital Isiro.

The release indicated that activities being carried out by WHO and partners in the DRC include enhanced surveillance and social mobilization to reinforce practices that would control infection.

WHO also noted that there were no indications to suggest that this outbreak in DRC was related to the Ebola outbreak in the Kibaale district of Uganda in July, which killed 17 people. The agency stressed that it does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to the DRC because of the outbreak.

According to WHO, the Ebola virus, which has an incubation period of two to 21 days, is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, other bodily fluids or organs of infected persons or animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys and antelopes. The disease, named after a small river in DR Congo, is fatal in about 50 to 90 percent of cases.

The symptoms of Ebola virus infection include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, rashes and impaired kidney and liver function. In the most severe cases, the virus leads to both external and internal bleeding.

On Tuesday, the WHO and U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) had launched a joint appeal to donors for contributing about $2 million to help the DRC government fight the epidemic. The DRC government has reportedly set aside $150,000 to contain the outbreak.

The Ebola outbreak comes at a time when the DRC military is fighting a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23) in DRC's eastern provinces of North and South Kivu. The intense fighting has displaced more than half a million people, including many who have fled to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

In addition, the Congolese military is also engaged in separate offensives against Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebels in the east and the Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army in the north. The DRC Army is being assisted in its anti-rebel campaigns by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in DRC, better known by the French acronym MONUSCO.

by RTT Staff Writer

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