KINSHASA, Congo — Two Ebola-related deaths have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country’s health minister said Sunday, although local officials believe the cases are unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa that has killed more than 1,400 people.
Eight samples were taken from Djera, located in the Boende region of the Congo’s northwest Equateur province, and two of them came back positive, Felix Kabange Numbi said on state television Sunday. “I declare an Ebola epidemic in the region of Djera, in the territory of Boende in the province of Equateur,” he told a news conference, according to Reuters. Kabange Numbi added that one case tested positive for the Sudanese strain of Ebola, while the other was combination of the Sudanese and the Zaire strain, which is highly lethal, Reuters reported.
Congolese officials believe Ebola has killed 13 people in the region, including five health workers, Kabange Numbi said. He said 11 people were sick and in isolation, and that 80 contacts were being traced.
“This epidemic has nothing to do with the one in West Africa,” Kabange Numbi said.
This is the seventh outbreak of Ebola in the Congo. The disease was first discovered there in 1976.
“The experience acquired during the six previous epidemics of Ebola will contribute to the containing of this illness,” Kabange Numbi said.
Boende is the region where the World Health Organization said an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis had killed 70 people in recent weeks. The WHO said last week those deaths were not Ebola-related, but WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said by email Sunday that the information was the result of “miscommunication from the field.”
Hartl said on Twitter that samples tested at a national laboratory were positive for Ebola, and that the results of confirmation tests from a laboratory in Gabon would likely come back Monday.
He added that it was possible the outbreak could be unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa, where a total of 2,615 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded in four countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Djera, a collection of villages, is more than 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from the Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. It is more than 600 kilometers from the provincial capital, Mbandaka.
Kabange Numbi said Djera would be placed under quarantine.