A new outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed at least 33 people and is suspected of sickening dozens more, the World Health Organization said Sunday.
Authorities in North Kivu Province notified the country's Health Ministry on August 1 of 26 suspected cases of Ebola, including the 20 deaths, Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement, The New York Times reported.
The experimental vaccine, which is manufactured by Merck, proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against the outbreak of Zaire virus in Equateur Province that began in April and was declared over on July 24.
The North Kivu Provincial Health Division notified the government of Congo that a couple of cases of haemorrhagic fevers were reported. Barthe Ndjoloko, who oversees the health ministry's Ebola response, tells Reuters that health workers and individuals who have come in contact with people infected with Ebola will be vaccinated.
Officials in the African nation have confirmed three deaths so far but believe the virus - considered one of the most lethal pathogens in existence - is responsible for scores more.
Although they were anxious then that the virus might have traveled to other regions because of its close proximity to the Congo river, there is no evidence yet suggesting that the new outbreak is related to the former outbreak in Bikoro.
"This is an active conflict zone".
"Since we are coming out of another Ebola outbreak, we have kept staff and equipment in place", Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said.
This region north of North Kivu province is already threatened by armed groups including the fearsome Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who have terrorized Beni for several years. More than one million displaced people are now residing in the affected region, which shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Trade activities between the countries result in frequent cross-border movement.
It travelled 80 miles (130km) north to Mbandaka, a port city on the river Congo - an essential waterway - with around 1.2 million inhabitants.