The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of at least 1,427 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
Now, what appears to be a different strain of the hemorrhagic fever has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — in Central Africa — and 13 victims have already died. Two people have tested positive for the virus in the northwestern Equateur province, which borders the Republic of the Congo, and a quarantine area has since been set up, health minister Felix Kabange Numbi told the BBC.
While the DRC is the first country outside West Africa to confirm Ebola in this particular outbreak, it is where the virus was first discovered in 1976 when it was known as Zaire (alongside a simultaneous infection in Sudan). The region has since experienced multiple outbreaks.
"It's not unheard of to have two separate outbreaks, usually independent," Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told VICE News. Morse also noted that the DRC outbreak, which is taking place in a rural area, is much more typical. "West Africa's really an odd situation," he added.
'We don't have enough people on the ground to handle the outbreak in West Africa, and now we have one in the DRC.'
In addition, Abraham Borbor, a Liberian doctor given the experimental serum ZMapp — the drug given to fully recovered American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — has died, according to Liberia's information minister. Two other Liberians who were given the drug are believed to be still alive, although their condition is unclear. ZMapp was also administered to a Spanish priest, who also succumbed to Ebola earlier this month.
On Saturday, the Philippines ordered the return of over 100 soldiers serving with the United Nations, citing concerns about safety, Reuters reported.
"The president is getting worried over the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and has ordered all 115 Filipino troops to return home as soon as possible," said a senior defense official. Philippine troops working for the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) number between 800 and 1,000 around the world.
Meanwhile, aid workers in Ebola-affected areas of West Africa are working under ever-increasing strain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 120 health workers in West Africa have died from Ebola and more than 240 are infected with the disease. Many more workers have left the infected regions, and fewer than 250 doctors remain in Liberia.
"What I'm really worried about is that we don't have enough people on the ground to handle the outbreak in West Africa, and now we have one in the DRC," said Morse. "In general, the response [in West Africa] was not the kind of immediate, quick response we've seen in the past."
Yesterday, the WHO also announced that one of their health workers had fallen ill with Ebola in Sierra Leone, the first of the organization's employees to test positive for the virus.
"The loss of so many doctors and nurses has made it difficult for WHO to secure support from sufficient numbers of foreign medical staff," the organization said in a statement.
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