DAKAR, Senegal — Two infected patients who fled from an Ebola treatment center in a Congo city of 1.2 million people later died, an aid group said Wednesday while asserting that “forced hospitalization is not the solution to this epidemic.”

As the number of suspected Ebola cases continued to rise, experts emphasized that more community engagement is needed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Three patients left of their own accord from the isolation zone of the Wangata hospital in Mbandaka city between Sunday and Tuesday, said Henry Gray, emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres.

One patient had been about to be discharged, he said. “The two others were helped to leave the hospital by their families in the middle of the night on Monday. One of the men died at home and his body was brought back to the hospital for safe burial with the help of the MSF teams; the other was brought back to the hospital yesterday morning and he died during the night,” Gray said in a statement.

Hospital staff made every effort to convince the patients and their families not to leave and to continue treatment, Gray said.

Three Ebola deaths have been confirmed since Congo’s health ministry announced the current outbreak of the often lethal hemorrhagic fever on May 8. It was not immediately clear if the two deaths reported by MSF were confirmed Ebola ones.

Congo’s health ministry on Wednesday announced six new suspected cases in the rural Iboko health zone in the country’s northwest and two in Wangata. There are now 28 confirmed Ebola cases. Overall the death toll stands at 27. WHO is accelerating efforts with nine countries neighboring Congo to try to prevent the Ebola outbreak from spreading.