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Health workers operate within an Ebola safety zone in the Health Center in Iyonda, near Mbandaka, on June 1, 2018. Credit: JUNIOR D. KANNAH/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization is responding to another outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just a week after a previous outbreak was officially declared over.

Why it matters: The new outbreak poses a "high" local and regional threat, the WHO stated Friday, and doctors are facing a challenging setting for responding to this illness due to armed conflict in the area.

The big picture: The outbreak is occurring in the eastern part of the DRC, about 30 miles from the Ugandan border. Peter Salama, deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response at the WHO, said doctors may need to be escorted by armed guards while going out to villages to trace people who have come into contact with Ebola patients. “We’re at the top of the difficulty scale,” he said.

“Here we’re responding to an outbreak from a high threat pathogen with one of the highest mortality rates of any known diseases but in the context of a war zone"
— Peter Salama, WHO

So far, Salama said, about 20 deaths have been reported, and this number is expected to rise. "It's extremely likely that it's the Ebola Zaire strain," Salama said. This strain is the deadliest of the Ebola strains that have been identified so far. The virus can cause severe headaches, high fever, diarrhea and bleeding.

  • "We expect overall that the overall case count will rise in the coming days," Salama said.

Ebola outbreaks typically begin when humans come into contact with an animal that carries the virus, such as a bat, Salama said. "It usually starts with contact between humans and the animal kingdom."

The North Kivu Provence, where the outbreak is located, borders both Uganda and Rwanda, and has been in a state of conflict for most of the past 14 years, with thousands of people killed and more than a million displaced. It is home to the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, with about 20,000 troops.

The new outbreak is about 1,500 miles from the location of the previous outbreak that was declared over in late July. Salama said authorities were not aware of the new cases at that time, and that it's unlikely this is an extension of the earlier outbreak.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

Del Rio bridge camp empty following Haitian migrant surge

A boy bathes himself in a jug of water inside a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 21 in Del Rio, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The last migrants camping under the Del Rio International Bridge, which connects Texas and Mexico, departed on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced during a White House press briefing.

Driving the news: Thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, had arrived to the makeshift camp after crossing the southern border seeking asylum. Roughly 1,800 migrants will now head to U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers.

White House says it expects federal contractors to be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said in new guidance Friday that it expects millions of federal contractors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

Why it matters: Companies with federal contractors have been waiting for formal guidance from the White House before requiring those employees to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.