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A new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is unrelated to the 6-month-old epidemic in West Africa, a genetic analysis has confirmed. Although the virus belongs to the same species, Ebola-Zaire, the strain is genetically so different that it "is definitely not a dissemination of the outbreak in West Africa,” says virologist Eric Leroy of the International Centre for Medical Research of Franceville, the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center in Gabon that is characterizing the DRC virus.
Results from virus sequencing of samples from the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were received last night. The virus is the Zaire species, in a lineage most closely related to a virus from the 1995 Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, DRC. ....
....Results from virus characterization, together with findings from the epidemiological investigation, are definitive: the outbreak in DRC is a distinct and independent event, with no relationship to the outbreak in west Africa.
These findings are reassuring, as they exclude the possibility that the virus has spread from West to Central Africa.
The data show that the virus is rapidly accumulating new mutations as it spreads through people. "We've found over 250 mutations that are changing in real time as we're watching," Sabeti says.
While moving through the human population in West Africa, she says, the virus has been collecting mutations about twice as quickly as it did while circulating among animals in the past decade or so.
"The more time you give a virus to mutate and the more human-to-human transmission you see," she says, "the more opportunities you give it to fall upon some [mutation] that could make it more easily transmissible or more pathogenic."
The Democratic Republic of Congo upped its death toll from Ebola on Saturday to 32 but insisted the outbreak, separate from an epidemic raging in west Africa, could be contained in its remote forest hotspot.
"We have registered 32 deaths," one up from a toll issued on Tuesday, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi told a press conference.
Kabange tallied 59 likely or confirmed cases of the tropical fever, saying the "big challenge" was to survey suspicious cases in order to staunch the contagion.
During a regional meeting between the Ministry of Health of DRC and the Southern African Development Community on the management and prevention of EVD transmission, the following measures were recommended: standardization of the interventions for the prevention of EVD and enhancement of sanitary border control without impeding international traffic.