The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed its first cases of Ebola in an epidemic that has hit four other African nations. Seventy people have died in DRC in the past 10 days of a previously unidentified fever.
Two out of eight cases tested in an outbreak of deadly fever in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo were positive for the Ebola virus, the central African nation's health minister confirmed on Sunday.
"The results are positive. The Ebola virus is confirmed in DRC," Felix Kabange Numbi said, referring to samples taken from people infected with the previously unidentified fever that has killed dozens since mid-August.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday that 70 people had died in an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. A WHO spokesman said the outbreak was not Ebola.
DRC is now the fifth African nation to confirm cases of the Ebola outbreak, which began in March. A total of 2,617 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded, including in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Liberia has seen the most deaths, at more than 600, with the disease confirmed in all regions of the country.
However, the UN health agency said on Friday that the overall death toll has been underestimated because some families are uncooperative with authorities and hide patients, fearing the stigma that comes with a positive diagnosis.
A law in Sierra Leone was passed through parliament on Friday that imposes a two-year prison sentence for hiding Ebola victims. Lawmakers said the measure was necessary because some families had resisted seeking medical treatment for their relatives.
glb/shs (AP, AFP, Reuters)