WHO says 70 die from illness in Congo, denies Ebola link

A local priest who asked not to be named said that the illness had affected several villages and estimated that the death toll was over 100 people.

WHO says 70 die from illness in Congo, denies Ebola link

World Bulletin/News Desk

At least 70 people have died in northern Democratic Republic of Congo from an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, denying that the illness was Ebola.

A WHO report dated Thursday and seen by Reuters said that 592 people had contracted the disease, of whom 70 died. Five health care workers, including one doctor, are among the dead.

"This is not Ebola," a WHO spokesman said in an email to Reuters on Thursday.

A local priest who asked not to be named said that the illness had affected several villages and estimated that the death toll was over 100 people.

Kinshasa sent its health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, and a team of experts on Wednesday to the region after reports of several deaths.

The outbreak began in the remote jungle province of Equateur where the first case of Ebola was reported in 1976, prompting speculation that it was the same illness that has killed more than 1,350 people in an outbreak now raging in West Africa.

Symptoms of the two diseases are similar; they include vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding. But the fatality rate for this outbreak of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is much lower than the West Africa Ebola outbreak, at around 12 percent versus close to 60 percent.

The WHO, which sent representatives to the area on Wednesday together with the Congolese team of experts, said four samples would be flown from the town of Boende on Friday to the capital Kinshasa for further testing.

Medical charity MSF said it had also sent a team to Equateur province to assess the situation. MSF said it was too early to confirm what the disease was.

Ebola treatments

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said on Thursday it would convene talks early next month on potential treatments and vaccines to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The infectious disease has killed 1,350 people among 2,473 cases in four countries - Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone - according to the United Nations health agency.

The WHO this month backed the use of untested drugs on people infected with Ebola, but the scarcity of supplies has raised questions about who gets priority access to treatment.

"The consultation has been convened to gather expertise about the most promising experimental therapies and vaccines and their role in containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa," it said in a statement on the talks set for Sept. 4-5 in Geneva.

More than 100 experts in pharmaceutical research, clinical management, and on ethical, legal and regulatory issues will attend the meeting at WHO headquarters, it said.

"Issues of safety and efficacy will be discussed together with innovative models for expediting clinical trials. Possible ways to ramp up production of the most promising products will also be explored," the WHO said.

ZMapp, a trial drug made by U.S. biotech company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has been used on six patients to date, but supplies are now exhausted, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

They include two American aid workers who have recovered, a Spanish priest who died and three Liberian medical workers, he said. Two of the Liberians have shown "marked improvement", while the third, a doctor, remains in serious condition but has improved somewhat, the WHO statement said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Ağustos 2014, 22:06

Muhammed Öylek

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