Ebola outbreak spreads to DR Congo city

Dr Kalenga

Dr Kalenga

The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo has spread from the countryside into a city, prompting fears that the disease will be increasingly hard to control.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed a case in Mbandaka, a city of a million people about 130km (80 miles) from the area where the first cases were confirmed earlier this month.
The city is a major transportation hub with routes to the capital Kinshasa.
Forty-four people have been infected and 23 people are known to have died.
Ebola is a serious infectious illness that causes internal bleeding and often proves fatal. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious.
The 2014-16 West Africa outbreaks, which killed 11,300 people, was particularly deadly because it spread to the capital cities of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official Peter Salama said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an “explosive increase” in cases.
Mr Salama, the WHO’s Deputy Director-General for emergency preparedness and response, said Mbandaka’s location on the Congo river, widely used for transportation, raised the prospect of Ebola spreading to surrounding countries such as Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic as well as downstream to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people.
“This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission,” he said
So far only three of the 44 cases have been confirmed as Ebola and involve people who are still alive, the WHO says.
There are a further 20 probable cases and 21 suspected cases, which together account for all the deaths.
The cases were recorded in three health zones of Congo’s Equateur province.
Isolation and rudimentary Ebola case management facilities had been set up in Mbandaka to cope with cases, Mr Salama said.
The disease may have been brought there, he said, by two or three people who had attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro to the south of Mbandaka before travelling to the city.
On Wednesday more than 4,000 doses of an experimental vaccine sent by the WHO arrived in Kinshasa with another batch expected soon. -BBC

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