The world may be facing two deadly Ebola outbreaks, now a new strain of the virus has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which so far has killed 71 percent of those infected.
The virus in the DRC, which is nearly 2,300 miles away from the most eastern extent of the much larger West-African outbreak has been studied by a joint French-Canadian team of virologists for the World Health Organisation who confirmed that it was distinct, sharing only 96.8 percent of genetic material: “The complete genome sequence of the virus responsible… confirms that it is a virus Ebola species but it shows that the Congolese strain is different from Africa West”.
The first cases in the new outbreak were recorded in August, and unlike the West-African disease the Centre for Disease Control records a ‘patient-zero’, a pregnant woman who slaughtered and prepared bush meat. Due to “local customs” observed after her death, several more became infected by her body and 46 have now died in the region.
Although it has a distinct origin to the West-Africa outbreak, the Congo strain is related to previous outbreaks in the Central-African country, and is “very similar” to the outbreak that ravaged the Congo and her neighbours from 1995 to 1997, reports France’s Le Monde.
Ebola is a recurring issue for the Congo, where the virus was first identified in the settlements along the banks of the river Ebola, from which it takes its name. This is the seventh local outbreak since the first in 1976, although in the past the events have typically lasted years and infected hundreds rather than thousands. It is this extraordinary speed with which new cases are spread and the high mortality rate that makes the present outbreak notable to the scientific community, who have recorded some 4,500 deaths so far.