And in a separate development, locals burned down a health centre in another village, in which people were receiving vaccinations against the disease, after news spread that a patient had died.
Since the outbreak was first reported on August 1, 103 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been identified in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including 63 deaths, the country’s health ministry said today.
The doctor living in Oicha town in North Kivu has been re-hospitalised with Ebola symptoms after his wife was confirmed as having the disease when she travelled to the nearby city of Beni, said Dr Peter Salama, the WHO’s head of emergency operations.
Because Oicha is almost entirely hemmed in by ADF Ugandan Islamist militia, Dr Salama said there were «extremely serious security concerns”.
He explained that aid workers, priests and government officials were being held hostage in the area.
The doctor’s initial test for Ebola — which causes vomiting, fever and diarrhoea – had been negative, but fresh results are awaited, Dr Salama said.
So far 97 of the doctor’s contacts who may have been exposed to the virus have been identified, and vaccination has begun in the town, he added.
Dr Salama told a news briefing the fact that Ebola had been confirmed in his wife, and that it was suspected in him, was especially worrying.
It really was the problem we were anticipating and the problem at same time that we were dreading
Dr Peter Salama, the WHO’s head of emergency operations
He said: ”It really was the problem we were anticipating and the problem at same time that we were dreading.”
WHO and health experts reached Oicha with armed escort by MONUSCO troops this week, he said, adding: «We know from that incident now in Oicha we are going to have to operate in some very complex environments due to security and access concerns.»
In a further worrying development, youths torched the health centre in another village after learning of the death of a patient from the retrovirus.
More than 2,900 people have been vaccinated against Ebola since the outbreak began, he said.
He added: «We are at quite a pivotal moment in this outbreak in terms of the evolution of the outbreak epidemiologically and in terms of the response.”
A statement issued by the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, which is hosting a conference looking at the risk posed by communicable diseases including Ebola, added: “North Kivu province hosts over one million displaced people and shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda, with frequent cross border movement due to trade activities.
“The area has been experiencing a prolonged humanitarian crisis and deteriorating security situation, which are expected to limit public health efforts to respond to this outbreak.
“The DRC Ministry of Health, WHO, and partners are responding to this event, and working to establish the full extent of this outbreak.
“The current response includes enhanced illness surveillance and reporting, monitoring of “contacts” (people who may have been exposed to Ebola), cross-border surveillance in neighboring countries, and improved laboratory capacity.”
Tests performed at DRC’s national laboratory shows the ebolavirus species associated with the current outbreak is ebolavirus Zaire.
This is the same species which caused an outbreak earlier this year in Equateur province in the north-west of the country.
However, differences between the genes of the viruses suggest the two outbreaks are not linked.