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First confirmed Ebola cases in DR Congo’s South Kivu province

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was “rapidly deploying an expert team” to the area/AFP

BUKAVU, DR Congo, Aug 15 – The eastern DR Congo province of South Kivu has recorded its first confirmed cases of Ebola in the country’s year-old epidemic, one of which was a fatality, the provincial government said Friday.

“Two cases which tested positive for Ebola were confirmed overnight in South Kivu, in Lwindi district in the Mwenga region,” it said in a statement.

“A 26-year-old victim died and (one of their) children who tested positive is still alive and being treated,” it said.

More than 1,900 people have died from Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo since August 1, 2018, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in North Kivu province and spread to neighbouring Ituri province.

South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidje told reporters: “Teams from the national anti-Ebola coordination campaign arrived yesterday to provide support.”

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted the outbreak in South Kivu “has sparked a rapid response… to provide treatment, identify all contacts, raise community awareness & begin vaccinating”.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was “rapidly deploying an expert team” to the area.

South Kivu had experienced a Ebola scare on July 31 when doctors briefly quarantined 15 people in the town of Birava over fears they were infected, but tests came back negative.

Ebola is named after a river in northern DRC, then named Zaire, where the virus was first identified in 1976 by a Belgian-led scientific team.

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The pathogen causes fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding.

The disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and is fought with time-honoured but laborious techniques of tracing contacts and quarantining them.

The outbreak is the deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.

The cases in South Kivu come on the heels of an announcement of a breakthrough in the quest for drug to treat Ebola.

US researchers on Monday said two prototype drugs, known by their lab names as REGN-EB3 and mAb114, slashed mortality rates among Ebola patients in a trial in eastern DRC.

The authorities have also deployed a US-made vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV, which is unlicensed but has been widely tested for safety, to protect health workers in the campaign against Ebola.

Nearly 200,000 people have received the jab.

Burundi on Wednesday said it had begun immunising frontline workers with the vaccine at its border with DRC.

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