KINSHASA, Congo – Two Ebola-related deaths have been confirmed in Congo, the country’s health minister said Sunday, though local officials believe the cases are unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa that has killed more than 1,400 people.
Eight samples were taken from the region of Boende in Congo’s northwest Equateur province, and two of them came back positive, Felix Kabange Numbi said on state television Sunday.
Congolese officials believe Ebola has killed 13 people in the region, including five health workers, Numbi said.
He said 11 people were sick and in isolation and that 80 contacts were being traced.
“This epidemic has nothing to do with the one in West Africa,” Numbi said.
This is the seventh outbreak of Ebola in Congo. The disease was first discovered there in 1976.
Boende is the region where the World Health Organization has said an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis has killed 70 people in recent weeks.
The WHO said last week those deaths were not Ebola-related.
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said on Twitter Sunday that samples tested at a national laboratory were positive for Ebola and that the results of confirmation tests from a laboratory in Gabon would likely come back Monday.
He said it was possible the outbreak could be unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa, where a total of 2,615 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded in four countries — Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Boende is more than 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.