Geneva - Containing an Ebola outbreak in a "warzone" in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is among the most hard challenges the World Health Organisation (WHO) has faced, a top official said on Friday.
While confirming that the cases diagnosed in the Beni and Mangina areas of DRC's North Kivu Province were indeed Ebola, Dr Peter Salama, the WHO Deputy Director-General in charge of Emergency Preparedness and Response, warned that the case count could rise. There were now suspected cases in the busy nearby town of Beni and the neighboring Ituri province.
United Kingdom aid agency CAFOD is already working alongside local partners in the area and has contacted specialists in Caritas Congo who responded to the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province.
The health ministry said four people have tested positive for Ebola in and around Mangina, a town of about 60,000 people in North Kivu province, 100 km from the Ugandan border.More news: Quake hits Indonesia's Lombok island, tsunami possible
Another 20 people died from unidentified hemorrhage fever in the area, mostly in the second half of July. "The risk is high at the country level, high at the regional level and low at a global level", he said.
"We are talking about tens of kilometres but I stress that this is very preliminary information at this stage".
Ebola is believed to be transported long by bats and can find its way into bush meat sold at local markets.
These symptoms may be followed by diarrhoea, vomiting, troubles of the kidney and liver.More news: In Afghanistan was kidnapped and killed three foreigners
Congo has dealt with Ebola for decades and this is its tenth outbreak of the virus. He says identifying the type of Ebola virus that is circulating is a priority, as that will tell scientists whether the vaccine used to help contain the outbreak in Equateur province can also be used in North Kivu.
The WHO has confirmed that the latest strain is the Zaire strain, which is what the Merck vaccine targets as per Congo's health ministry.
A World Health Organization team has arrived in the war-torn region to try to contain the spread of the virus.
The WHO said the presence of armed groups and the wide-distance spread of the disease, could make vaccination "near impossible" in North Kivu.More news: US court orders Trump administration to fully reinstate DACA program
"There is a great panic among the local population following the appearance of the Ebola epidemic", said a nurse by phone, who asked not to be named.