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Ebola outbreak kills 18 in Congo


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BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Reuters) -- An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has killed 18 people in northwestern Congo Republic, where the disease killed 120 earlier this year, state television said.

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One hundred and sixty-four people have come into contact with the disease around Mbomo, some 700 km (440 miles) northwest of the central African nation's capital Brazzaville and just across the border from Gabon, Tele-Congo said on Monday night.

Teams from Congo Republic's health ministry, the World Health Organization and aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres were in the Mbomo region trying to break the chain of contamination.

There is no known cure for Ebola, which is passed on by infected body fluids and kills between 50 and 90 percent of victims depending on the strain.

The disease damages blood vessels and can cause bleeding, diarrhea and shock. Its worst outbreak, in 1995, killed more than 250 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Officials believe the latest outbreak, first reported earlier this month, started after a group of hunters ate a dead boar they found in the forest.

Scientists think the previous Ebola outbreak in the region, known as Cuvette-Ouest, was caused by the consumption of infected monkey meat. Bushmeat is a staple among forest communities and a delicacy in many cities.

Many locals, however, believe occult forces are behind the spread of the disease. They have recently blamed Red Cross workers for conjuring up the virus through black magic.

During the previous outbreak, villagers stoned and beat to death four teachers accused of casting a spell to cause the disease.



Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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