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Ebola spreads to city, entering 3 health zones in Congo

17 May 2018, 02:01 | Randall Craig

Ebola outbreak spreads to urban area as deaths mount

Congo health minister Oly Ilunga said on Wednesday that two suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever were reported in Wangata health zones about 150 km from Bikoro the rural area where the outbreak began

The Democratic Republic of Congo's efforts to head off an Ebola epidemic is running into obstacles, with the announcement of the first registered urban case.

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

Adding to concerns is the city's location on the banks of the Congo River, a major thoroughfare for trade and transport into the capital, Kinshasa.

Forty-two people have now been infected and 23 people are known to have died. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently visited the outbreak's starting point in Bikoro town are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation. Ebola is spread by contact with the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms.

The World Health Organisation has sent 5,400 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo, with thousands more to be shipped in the coming days.




Before this announcement, all confirmed Ebola cases were reported in the Bikoro health zone, where health facilities are limited and affected areas are hard to reach. He said epidemiologists are working to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified.

Mr Ilunga said Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, meaning that the disease could spread more rapidly and further afield.

"This is a concerning development", World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.

The vaccine, developed by Merck and Co Inc, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest-ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014 to 2016.



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