KINSHASA - Two people have died from suspected cases of Ebola in central Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing to 172 the total number of victims for the past four months, say officials.

Provincial Health Minister Fortunate Ntumba said: "We have registered two deaths this week among the sick" in Kampungu, near the epicentre of the outbreak in the Western Kasai region.

Officials said there were 381 cases of either Ebola or shigellosis in the region.

Ebola killed 50 to 90% of those it infected.

For shigellosis, the mortality rate was about 40%.

Ebola was an incurable disease characterised by massive internal bleeding, while the Shigella strand of infectious dysentery was treatable by antibiotics.

Ebola had killed at least 452 people in the DRC since 1976, and 1 200 people across Africa in the same period.

It last swept DRC in 1995, then known as Zaire, claiming 245 lives out of the 315 registered cases.

The survival rate could be increased by quarantine and swift treatment of symptoms.

The first cases of the latest outbreak were detected in April around the village of Kanungu, 300km from the provincial capital, Kananga.