The Democratic Republic of Congo’s health ministry says 17 people in northwest have died from Ebola, describing the fresh outbreak as a public health emergency with international impact.

The ministry said 21 cases of fever with hemorrhagic indications and 17 deaths have been recorded in Equateur province.

It 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.

“Our country is facing another epidemic of the Ebola virus, which constitutes an international public health emergency,” the ministry said in a statement.

Ebola is believed to be spread over long distances by bats, which can host the virus without dying, as it infects other animals it shares trees with such as monkeys. It often spreads to humans via infected bush-meat.