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DR Congo confirms Ebola cases as deadly virus goes beyond West Africa

Ebola Drug Zmapp

(CNN) — The Democratic Republic of Congo is reporting new Ebola cases in a northern town, sparking fears that the deadly virus is expanding far beyond West Africa.

Two people in Gera tested positive for Ebola, a government spokesman said Sunday.

A lab and quarantine station have been set up in the town, which is about 750 miles from the capital of Kinshasa.

The World Health Organization said the nation did its own tests, and the U.N. agency’s lab is conducting its own confirmation testing that will also determine the strain of the virus found.

The central African nation said its test showed that the strain is different from the one that has killed nearly 1,500 people in the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

Experts have described the West African outbreak as the worst in the history of the virus. Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Congo, and takes its name from a river in the latter nation.

Congo has had six previous outbreaks since the disease appeared on its shores, the World Health Organization said.

Africa has been limited to three strains: Bundibugyo, Zaire and Sudan. Though Congo has had the Zaire strain in the past, it’s unclear whether it’s the same one in the latest outbreak.

The WHO said its confirmation testing will probably be done Monday. Last week, 13 people died of a mysterious ailment in the Boende area in Congo, but the WHO said at the time that their deaths were a result of a “viral hemorrhagic fever of undetermined origin.”

Ebola is one of the world’s most virulent diseases and is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of infected people.

The outbreak has forced various nations to take drastic action, including Ivory Coast, which said it is closing borders it shares with Guinea and Liberia for an indefinite period.

Senegal also closed its borders over Ebola fears. The closure includes any aircraft and ships traveling to Senegal from Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia.

A major outbreak in Congo would be catastrophic; it shares borders with nine nations, including Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

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