A health worker wearing Ebola protection gear enters the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at the Alliance for International Medical Action Ebola treatment centre in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this March 30 2019 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER
A health worker wearing Ebola protection gear enters the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at the Alliance for International Medical Action Ebola treatment centre in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this March 30 2019 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER

Kinshasa — Deaths from an 11-month-old epidemic of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have crossed the 1,600 mark and a new fatality has been reported near the border with Uganda, the health ministry said on Friday.

As of Thursday, the health authorities had recorded 2,382 cases of Ebola, of which 1,606 had been fatal, it said.

A ministry spokesperson told AFP that a patient whose infection had been reported on Monday in Ariwara, in Ituri province bordering Uganda, had died.

The fatality was a mother from neighbouring North Kivu province, whose five children had become infected with Ebola. Two of them had died. She had gone to Ituri in order to evade Ebola response teams, the ministry said.

Ariwara lies in northern Ituri, about 10km from Uganda and about 60km from South Sudan.

"So far, 177 people who have been in contact with the family have been identified in Ariwara and 40 have already been vaccinated," the ministry said.

The disease broke out in North Kivu before spreading to Ituri.

Two people also died in Uganda in June after a family returned from eastern DRC, where they had buried an Ebola-stricken relative.

The current epidemic is the worst on record after more than 11,300 died in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in an outbreak from 2014-2016.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, bodily fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.

Separately on Friday, the UN said the Ebola risk in Ituri was being heightened by violence that has caused people to flee their homes, forcing them to gather in places with poor hygiene that were vulnerable to disease spread.

AFP