GENEVA (Reuters/AFP) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it has sent protective equipment for medical staff to Democratic Republic of Congo, where the authorities have confirmed two cases of Ebola in a remote area. "The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters in Geneva in response to a query.
The Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province on Sunday after two of eight patients tested for the virus came back positive, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said.
In Kinshasa, Congolese Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said that two of eight samples taken from victims of a mystery fever had tested positive for Ebola. "The results are positive. The Ebola virus is confirmed in DRC," Mr Kabange told AFP.
Speaking later on public television, he said the confirmation marked the seventh outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo, where the virus was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River. But he said the two new cases had "no link to (the epidemic) raging in West Africa" and were different strains from one another.
The authorities immediately imposed a quarantine around the affected area in Equateur province near Jera, more than 1,200km north-east of the Congolese capital Kinshasa.
Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said it was sending a crew to help handle patients in the area.
The sobering news of Ebola's spread came as United Nations officials pledged to step up efforts against the lethal tropical virus, which has infected more than 2,600 and killed 1,427, according to WHO figures released on Friday.