Ebola spreads to major urban area in Congo

Faith Castro
May 18, 2018

Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, is caused by one of five Ebola viruses. One case has been confirmed in Mbandaka a city of around 1 million is top priority as it is connected to the capital of Kinhasa, a city of 10 million increasing the transmission risk significantly and giving rise to the fear that the outbreak to turn into an epidemic.

The health ministry said two new deaths have been tied to the cases, including one in a suburb of Mbandaka.

"The other cities in the province of Equateur as well as the cities upstream and downstream of Mbandaka on the river are also placed under health surveillance". "There is a fridge that will be prepared (on Thursday) ... in Mbandaka and that will be at -80°".

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban center located on major national and worldwide river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighboring countries", the statement said. "All must be done to isolate the Ebola cases, especially since there has been a case in Mbandaka city", said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, who is also the EU Ebola Coordinator.

Henry Gray from Doctors Without Borders in Mbandaka said there are more than 500 people that have likely come into contact with those infected.

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said of the current 25 deaths, only one has been confirmed as Ebola, adding that no new health professionals have been contaminated. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization delivered 4,000 injections of an experimental vaccine with proven efficacy in recent trials, and more batches are expected soon.

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"This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general.

Among the MSF staff on the ground are some of the organisation's most experienced Ebola field workers, including medical personnel, experts in infection control and logisticians. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of Ebola found in Congo. "And we are taking it very seriously", Dr. Ibrahima-Soce Fall, the World Health Organization regional emergency director for Africa, said Monday.

Congolese authorities declared the outbreak in the northwest region near Congo-Brazzaville on May 8, and three have died from the disease, according to an official toll.

First symptoms generally include the sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, and this is followed by vomiting and diarrhoea.

The current outbreak involves the same strain of the virus that hit three West African countries in 2013-15 and sparked an global panic.

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