The world has a new Ebola outbreak on its hands. The Democratic Republic of Congo declared an outbreak Monday after samples taken from two of five patients in the country's northwest province of Equateur tested positive for the Zaire strain of Ebola. More testing is underway, and NPR reports that more than a dozen people may have already died from the disease. Health officials first reported 21 patients with signs of hemorrhagic fever, of which Ebola is one type, in the village of Ikoko Impenge, about 20 miles from the town of Bikoro, per CBS News. Seventeen patients later died, though officials say no deaths have occurred among health workers or the hospitalized since the samples were collected Thursday.
The WHO has now released $1 million from a contingency fund as experts descend on Bikoro to identify patient zero and to help prevent further spread of the disease that has caused nine outbreaks in the Congo since 1976, reports CNN. The last, a two-month outbreak beginning in May 2017, killed four of eight people infected in the northeast province of Bas-Uele. "Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the government … and partners to reduce the loss of life," says the WHO's deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response. "Responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease," which is spread from human to human through bodily fluids. (This vaccine could help.)