December 30, 2008

Ebola virus outbreak kills 11 in Congo

At least 11 people were killed by an Ebola virus outbreak in western Congo, the country's health minister said Tuesday.

The 11 are among 35 people infected with the hemorrhagic fever in the village of Kaluemba, Western Kasai province, where the epidemic began in late November, Health Minister August Mopipi said.

Suspected cases of the highly contagious disease -- spread through direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person or with contaminated objects -- also have been found in neighboring villages, Mopopi said.

Laboratory tests in neighboring Gabon and at Congo's National Institute for Biomedical Research confirmed the Ebola virus in the 11 deaths, he said.

Olivier Chenebon, head of a Doctors Without Borders mission, said villagers had fever accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting of blood -- symptoms suggesting Ebola.

Ebola kills 50 percent to 90 percent of the people it infects. Most people die of blood loss or organ failure. It has no approved vaccine or treatment.

Villagers are being warned not to touch dead animals, not to eat bats or monkeys and to avoid all contact with human fluids, Chenebon said.

Last year, Ebola killed at least 187 people in the same region.