Ebola epidemic jumps to fifth country: Congo declares Ebola outbreak in northern Equateur province

August 2014KINSHASA, AfricaDemocratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province on Sunday after two out of eight cases tested came back positive for the deadly virus, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said. A mysterious disease has killed dozens of people in Equateur in recent weeks but the World Health Organization had said on Thursday it was not Ebola. “I declare an Ebola epidemic in the region of Djera, in the territory of Boende in the province of Equateur,” Kabange Numbi told a news conference. The region lies about 1,200 km (750 miles) north of the capital Kinshasa. Numbi said that one of the two cases that tested positive was for the Sudanese strain of the disease, while the other was a mixture between the Sudanese and the Zaire strain — the most lethal variety. The outbreak in West Africa that has killed at least 1,427 people in West Africa since March is the Zaire strain.
 The World Health Organization said on Thursday that the disease which had killed at least 70 people in Equateur was a kind of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. A WHO spokesperson said the U.N. health agency could not confirm the results of the tests announced on Sunday, which were carried out by the Congolese authorities. –Reuters
Sierra makes it a crime to harbor Ebola victims: Sierra Leone’s parliament has made the harbouring of Ebola victims a crime punishable by two years’ jail in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the justice minister said on Saturday. The decision came as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the hiding of victims and the existence of “shadow zones” where medics cannot go has concealed the true scale of the epidemic. Some 1,427 people have died among 2,615 cases documented since the current outbreak – the worst since the disease’s discovery – was first identified in Guinea in March, according to figures released by the WHO on Friday. Lawmakers in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown voted overwhelmingly in favor of the 2014 Public Health Amendment Act, which amends a 54-year-old public health ordinance.
“The new regulation will provide for summary trial, meaning trial by a magistrate court alone,” Justice Minister Frank Kargbo told Reuters. Under-reporting of Ebola cases has been a problem particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone, currently the two countries hardest hit by the virus. Nigeria, the fourth country affected, has reported 14 cases of the disease. Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centers, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread. “The amendment is needed at this time taking into account the fact that when the 1960 ordinance was drafted and passed into law, a disease such as Ebola did not exist,” said Kargbo, who also serves as Sierra Leone’s attorney general. –Reuters
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