Congo declares new Ebola epidemic, 1,000 km from eastern outbreak

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FILE - In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019 file photo, health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC. The World Health Organization said Friday Nov. 22, 2019, there has been “a very dangerous and alarming development” in efforts to end the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, warning that the eruption of violence may re-ignite the epidemic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared a new Ebola epidemic on Monday in the western city of Mbandaka, more than 1,000 kilometers away from an ongoing outbreak of the same deadly virus in the east.

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019 file photo, health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC. The World Health Organization said Friday Nov. 22, 2019, there has been “a very dangerous and alarming development” in efforts to end the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, warning that the eruption of violence may re-ignite the epidemic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

Health Minister Eteni Longondo said four people who died in Mbandaka were confirmed as positive cases following testing at the national biomedical laboratory in the capital Kinshasa.

“We have a new Ebola epidemic in Mbandaka,” Longondo told reporters.

“We are going to very quickly send them the vaccine and medicine.”

The outbreak was confirmed by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who tweeted: “This outbreak is a reminder that #COVID19 is not the only health threat people face.”

“The country is also in final phase of battling Ebola in eastern DRC, COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak,” he added. 

Congo has been struggling to put an end to a nearly two-year-old Ebola outbreak near its eastern borders with Rwanda and Uganda, which has killed more than 2,200 people, the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of the disease on record.

It was days away in April from declaring the end of that outbreak, its tenth since the virus was discovered in 1976, when a new chain of infection was confirmed in the east.

However, no new cases have been detected there in over 30 days.

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