Ebola outbreak in Congo spreads to urban area

Ebola outbreak in Congo spreads to urban area

Ebola outbreak in Congo spreads to urban area

Congo has confirmed a case of Ebola in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million, marking the first urban case in the latest outbreak, which is now the most serious since the epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to neighbouring west African countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people out of almost 29,000 registered cases.

Late Thursday, Congo's Ministry of Health announced 11 new confirmed Ebola cases and two deaths tied to cases in the country's northwest, including one in a suburb of Mbandaka. It involves vaccinating contacts of cases and suspected cases, contacts of those contacts and health care and other front-line workers. The city is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week, said Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga.

Authorities will intensify efforts to monitor and trace the Congo population at all air, sea and road access routes, Mr Ilunga said.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

"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. The new, urban case is only the third confirmed case of the current outbreak; 20 others are probable, and 21 are suspected, bringing the total of potential cases to 44.

Health advocates uniting under #MASTHMARUNONG the advocacy of providing asthma education
Health advocates uniting under #MASTHMARUNONG the advocacy of providing asthma education

Ebola is lethal and highly contagious, which makes it hard to contain - especially in urban environments where people are mobile and come into more contact with others. More than one team is ready to be dispatched he said and each of these would work in shifts of four to six weeks.

Moreover, MSF and its research arm Epicentre are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the implementation of the Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP as an additional measure to control the outbreak.

In a statement, the United Nations agency said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would convene an emergency committee to discuss the matter.

World Health Organization also sent 300 body bags to DRC to ensure those who had died from the virus were safely buried.

Isolation zones have been set up in Mbandaka's main hospital, and in Bikoro, WHO said. The WHO has sent 4,000 doses to Congo and said it will dispatch thousands more as needed in the coming days.

This is the ninth outbreak, since the discovery of the Ebola virus in the country in 1976. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding. On average, about 50 percent of people who become ill with Ebola die.

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