Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Kinshasa/New York — The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared a new outbreak of Ebola in the north-west of the country, where 17 people died from viral haemorrhagic 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 e-mailed statement on 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 DRC and takes its name from a river in the east of the country.

This is DRC’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 Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday that more samples are being collected for testing.

The WHO is working closely with DRC’s government "to rapidly scale up its operations and mobilise 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 that it plans to proceed with its request to cut $252m in Ebola response money from the US Agency for International Development’s budget.