A mysterious lethal virus has broken out in Zaire, killing at least 56 people and prompting government officials to place parts of the country under quarantine, health officials said Tuesday.
The most likely cause is Ebola, one of the world's deadliest viruses, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Ebola, which causes hemorrhaging, fevers and vomiting, kills about 90% of those it infects, and there is no treatment or vaccine.
The State Department issued a statement Monday that the "possible outbreak" occurred in the area around Kikwit, a city in the Bandundu province of Zaire, about 250 miles east of Kinshasa, the capital. The statement warned that anyone planning to visit that area "should consider postponing such travel" until the level of public health risk is better known.
An Associated Press report from Kinshasa put the death toll at 100 and said Kikwit, with a population of 600,000, had been quarantined by the government; soldiers reportedly blocked routes into the city. The report quoted officials at Zaire's Health Ministry who said the outbreak began April 10 when a surgical patient contaminated medical personnel at Kikwit's hospital.