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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

24 mins ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

42 mins ago - World

Emiratis ask Blinken to label Houthis terrorist designation

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday on Abu Dhabi.

Updated 56 mins ago - Economy & Business

World Bank: Gap between rich and poor countries is widening

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the last two decades, incomes in poorer countries were catching up to rich countries. The pandemic economy of the 2020s may reverse the trend, the World Bank warns in a new report.

Why it matters: Falling inequality between countries has been one of the most positive trends of the 21st century. If it reverses, it implies more human suffering and geopolitical instability.