Ebola fever kills 51 people in northwestern Congo

Brazzaville- Congo (PANA) -- Ebola hemorrhagic fever has killed 51 patients in north-west Congo's Mbomo and Kelle districts, the country's health and population minister Alain Moka confirmed Thursday.
Addressing a news conference in Brazzaville Thursday, Moka said five patients had died in Mbomo, while 46 deaths occurred in Kelle.
The minister said that most of the 46 deaths in Kelle occurred at Ebilakoye village, whose population has now moved towards the Olouba-Mbomo road.
He said that the Congolese government has taken a series of emergency measures, including strengthening health teams in the affected districts.
An advance medical team has also been dispatched to Itoumbi and Ewo districts, although the epidemic has not hit these areas.
Two mobile radio stations have also been established in Kellé and in Mbomo to sensitise the population on the need to co-operate with health teams combating the lethal disease.
According to the Congolese minister, the population in the two districts erroneously believed that a curse was causing the deaths in their area and not the Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
The state will distribute small radio sets to women while loudspeakers will also be installed to enable the population in the two districts to get the messages on a local station.
Meanwhile, the government has closed schools and banned the movement of people from one village to another.
Moka announced that the government had released 40 million CFAF to finance the rapid transportation of new medical teams to Kellé and Mbomo districts.
The government has directed the health ministry to make an international appeal for assistance so that stringent and efficient measures could be taken to prevent the deterioration of the situation.
A team from the Congolese health ministry travelled to Kellé and Mbomo districts last Thursday to take blood samples on suspected cases to confirm that the Ebola virus was the real cause of the deaths.
Meanwhile, the medical team has isolated patients with symptoms of the fever and advised relatives to avoid any contamination.
Ebola haemorrhagic fever symptoms include bleeding from the nose and mouth.
The disease is highly contagious and is spread through bodily secretions or unprotected contact with the victim's body.
Although the disease has a 21-day incubation period, an infected person can die within three days.
Another Ebola epidemic killed more than 20 people in the same districts between 2000-2002.
Most of the victims had eaten the meat of a dead primate they had picked in the forest, or touched infected patients from Gabon.
Experts from the Congolese health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) office in Libreville helped to bring the previous epidemic under control.

13 february 2003 21:58:00

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