August 25, 2014 / 1:55 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-WHO says sending supplies for Ebola outbreak in Congo

(adds details, background)

GENEVA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it has sent protective equipment for medical staff to Democratic Republic of Congo, where 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 said in Geneva in response to a query.

The current Ebola epidemic, which has killed at least 1,427 people, has focused on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone with several cases also in Nigeria.

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.

Congolese authorities who went to the remote area found 24 cases of hemorrhagic fever of "unknown origin", including 13 people that had died, Jasarevic said.

Of these, two have tested positive for Ebola, but other samples taken from suspect cases are being analysed, he said.

Hemorraghic gastroenteritis, malaria and shigellosis have also been identified in the area, he said. At least 70 people have died in northern Democratic Republic of Congo from an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, the WHO said last Thursday, dismissing reports that the illness was Ebola.

Ebola virus, which was discovered in the former Zaire in 1976, is endemic in the area. This is the seventh known outbreak of the deadly disease in the country, according to the WHO.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Ralph Boulton

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