World Health Organization says Ebola outbreak has spread to DR Congo city

18 May, 2018, 09:30 | Author: Veronica Peterson
  • Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Ilunga said, adding he was anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.

Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people.

The World Health Organization's lead response official called Thursday's new confirmed case "a game changer".

The number of reported cases is 42, including two confirmed, according to a World Health Organization tally.

Chief executive Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the affected Bikoro area last weekend, saying he hoped for a "better way out" of the latest outbreak in DRC. And until now, all the confirmed cases of Ebola were in Bikoro health zone, some 90 miles south of Mbandaka.

"At least 44 people are believed to have been infected" during a new outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says the BBC, and "23 deaths are now being investigated".

Using the tried-and-true contact tracing method, officials have identified 382 such people so far.

They were recorded in Congo's Equateur province. The case in Mbandaka is only the third confirmed case of the current outbreak; 20 others are probable, and 21 are suspected, bringing the total potential cases to 44.

"But it is a cost that is worth investing now, because we know from Ebola West Africa experience that that cost the worldwide community between $3-4 billion" in addition to the death toll, he said. Tens of millions of people live along the river, and the capitals of Congo, the Central African Republic and Congo Republic lie along it and its tributaries.

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Ebola is much harder to contain in urban areas, so this development compounds the risk of contagion and elevates the outbreak to the most serious since an Ebola epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

The health ministry said it had received 5,400 doses of Ebola vaccine Wednesday morning. Thousands more were expected to arrive in the coming days.

Ebola is a highly infectious and often fatal disease.

"With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed", said Henry Gray, an MSF emergency coordinator in Mbandaka. "It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city".

The vaccines are now housed in the country's capital Kinshasa before hopefully being transported and deployed to the outbreak hotspot of Bikoro within days.

The disease causes internal bleeding and spreads rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid.

"They need to be activated across the province and even beyond", he added.

This Ebola vaccine isn't officially licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet, seemingly as a matter of the nation's slow and complicated approval process.

Mbandaka, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has a population of about 1.2 million and is a hub for trade and travel in the absence of a functioning road network in the region.

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