Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The strain of Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of Congo's latest outbreak has killed at least 37 people in its first week, the country's health ministry reported on Thursday.
It is the 10th outbreak since 1976 for the central African country, and was discovered on Aug. 1 in North Kivu province, hours after the World Health Organization declared another outbreak, in Equateur province, over. The newer outbreak has no connection to the prior one, but involves the deadlier Zaire strain of the virus. A total of 44 cases of hemorrhagic fever, the Ebola virus' foremost symptom, have been reported in North Kivu. Seventeen are confirmed and 27 are probable, and an additional 54 suspected cases are under investigation, the health ministry said.
The new outbreak comes in one of the DRC's most populated areas. The eight million residents include one million people displaced by fighting between rebel and government troops. A steady influx of refugees and a continuous outflow to neighboring countries suggests the Ebola virus could easily be spread.
"The bad news is that this strain of Ebola carries with it the highest case fatality rate of any of the strains of Ebola, anywhere above 50% and higher, according to previous outbreaks," said WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama. "So, it's the most deadly variant of the Ebola virus strains that we have. That's the bad news. The good news is that we do have, although it's still an investigational product, a safe and effective vaccine that we were able to deploy last time around. It's going to be a very, very complex operation."
Of the four Ebola strains that can affect humans, the Zaire strain is the deadliest, but it is also targeted by most of the available vaccines and treatments.
"The real disturbing aspect is that it is now in a [conflict] zone. It's difficult to get health care workers in and it's dangerous because there are people who are terrorists who target health care workers often," Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Instituter of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told the news site Axios.