Investigations are on to assess the full extent of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is believed to have already claimed three lives, WHO has said.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti on May 13 visited Kinshasa to discuss with national authorities and partners ways to mount a rapid, effective and coherent response in order to stop the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

The visit follows notification by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Likati health zone, Bas Uele Province, in the northern part of the country bordering Central African Republic. 

The Likati health zone is around 1,400 kilometres from the capital Kinshasa. 

"To date, the outbreak is reported in a remote and hard to reach area and appears to be geographically relatively limited. However, investigations are ongoing to assess the full extent of the outbreak and, therefore, high vigilance still needs to be maintained," WHO said on Saturday.

On May 10, 2017, a multidisciplinary team led by the Ministry of Health of DRC and supported by WHO, under the new WHO Emergency Programme, and partners, was deployed to the Likati health zone, Bas Uele Province to conduct an in-depth field investigation. 

The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has been activated to provide additional support if required. 

Reinforcement of epidemiological surveillance, contact tracing, case management, and community engagement are under way.

"We are grateful to WHO and other partners for the swift support in carrying out investigations that led to the confirmation of this outbreak," said Oly Ilunga Kalenga, Minister of Health of DR Congo. 

"A strong multi-sectoral response, better coordination, public awareness, community engagement and adequate resources will be critical in our efforts to stop the outbreak," he added.

The first case occurred on April 22 in a 45-year-old male. He was transported by taxi to hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival. 

The driver also fell ill and later died. A third person who cared for the first case also became ill and subsequently died. 

At present, 25 contacts of the second patient who died are being followed. Of the cases and deaths, one has been tested polymerase chain reaction PCR-positive for Ebola.

This is the eighth outbreak of Ebola virus disease since its discovery in 1976 in DR Congo. 

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11,300 people.