THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION said Friday it was preparing for ''the worst case scenario'' in a fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

''We are very concerned, and we are planning for all scenarios, including the worst case scenario,'' the WHO's head of emergency response Peter Salama told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO has tallied 32 suspected or confirmed cases in the northwestern area of Bikoro, on the shores of Lake Tumbathe near the border with the Republic of Congo, including 18 deaths between April 4 and May 9.

The cases include  three healthcare workers, including one who has died, Salama said.

The outbreak declared by the  DRC health ministry on Tuesday, is the DRC's ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the deadly viral disease was first identified in then-Zaire by a Belgian-led team.

Salama said the affected region of the  vast strife-torn central African country is very remote and hard to reach, with a dire lack of functioning infrastructure.

''Access is extremely difficult......it is basically 15 hours by motorbike from the closest town.'' he said.

WHO already has a team on the ground and is preparing to  send up to 40 more specialists in epidemiology, logistics, contact tracing and other  areas to the region in the coming week or so.

Salama also said the UN health organization hoped to have mobile lab up and running on site this weekend.

At the same time, WHO and the World Food Programme are working to set up an ''air-bridge''  to help bring in the supplies needed. [Agencies]


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