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Congo Declares Ebola Outbreak After 17 People Die From Virus

The Democratic Republic of Congo declared a new outbreak of Ebola in the northwest of the country, where 17 people died from viral hemorrhagic fever over the past five weeks.

The Health Ministry was informed of the fatal cases near the town of Bikoro in Equateur province on May 3 and subsequently tested five patients suspected of carrying Ebola, it said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Two of the samples tested positive for the Zaire strain of the disease, it said.

“Our country is facing a new epidemic of the Ebola virus which constitutes an international health emergency,” the ministry said. “We have the human resources well trained in this matter who have always been able to quickly control previous epidemics.”

An Ebola outbreak in northern Equateur province in 2014 killed 49 people. The cases were unrelated to the epidemic in West Africa that year in which more than 11,000 people died. The viral disease, which has no known cure or vaccine, was first reported in 1976 in Congo and takes its name from a river in the east of the country.

This is Congo’s ninth recorded Ebola outbreak, the last of which was in 2017. While the ministry said no new deaths have been registered since May 3, the World Health Organization said Tuesday that more samples are being collected for testing.

The WHO is working closely with Congo’s government “to rapidly scale up its operations and mobilize health partners using the model of a successful response” to the 2017 outbreak, the agency said in a statement.

The White House announced on Tuesday it plans to proceed with its request to cut $252 million in Ebola response money from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s budget.