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Ebola deaths in Congo halt plan to declare virus eradicated

Ebola deaths in Congo halt plan to declare virus eradicated
A worker from the World Health Organization prepares to administer an experimental Ebola vaccination in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 21, 2018. File Photo by STR/EPA-EFE

April 13 (UPI) -- An 11-year-old girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo has died of the Ebola virus, the second in recent days to succumb, concerning experts that the disease may still be lingering in the African country.

Officials reported the girl's death Sunday. A 26-year-old man died of Ebola in Beni on Friday. Both deaths occurred in the nation's northeast.

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Congolese authorities had believed the virus was eradicated after going for several weeks without any new cases, but the new deaths have led officials to halt plans to announce the outbreak is officially over.

"[The World Health Organization] has worked side by side with health responders from the DRC for over 18 months and our teams are right now supporting the investigation into this latest case," Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa said after the first death.

"Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds challenges, we will continue this joint effort until we can declare the end of this Ebola outbreak together."

The DRC had been trying to corral the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history since 2018. It's now experienced almost 2,300 deaths and 3,400 confirmed cases from the new outbreak.

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An outbreak began in West Africa in 2014 that killed 11,300 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Ebola is a tropical fever first detected in Sudan and Congo in 1976.

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