Ebola outbreak in the Congo spreads to major city, health officials confirm


The Ebola outbreak in Congo risks running out of control with the first suspected case reported in a city of over 1 million.

More than 11,000 people died in an Ebola outbreak that plagued the western African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for about 2 years from 2014. It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city.

One sample proved positive for Ebola, he said. Three cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests.

There have been a total of 45 Ebola cases in DRC (10 suspected, 21 probable, 14 confirmed), DRC's Ministry of Health confirmed on Thursday. That new death had epidemiological ties to another case.

"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".

It raised its view of the risks after a case of Ebola was confirmed in the city of Mbandaka, which the agency said was "a large urban centre located on major national and global river, road and domestic air routes".

Peter Salama, in charge of emergency response at the World Health Organization, has said the spread to a city complicated the fight against Ebola, which depends on identifying and isolating suspected cases.

"For now, the cold chain is guaranteed at -80°C degrees until Kinshasa", Health Minister Oly Ilunga told Reuters.

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World Health Organization sent the first 4000 vaccines to Kinshasa in DRC on Wednesday and another 4000 vaccines will be delivered to affected areas in the coming days.

"The outbreak is potentially a public health emergency because many of the criteria have been met", said Dr. David Heymann, a former WHO director who has led numerous responses to Ebola.

Ebola survivors often suffer from long-term consequences of the disease and may carry dormant viruses. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of Ebola found in Congo.

"These are make or break issues", said Salama, who visited Congo last weekend.

The Department of Health first reported the outbreak on May 8, the ninth the country has faced in the past four decades.

The European Commission has announced a package of urgent humanitarian aid to help contain an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Whilst the strategy is being put in place, the "pillars" of an Ebola intervention are taking effect in order to stem the spread of the disease: early treatment and isolation of people who are sick; tracing and following up contacts; informing people about the disease, how to prevent it and where to seek care; supporting existing healthcare; and temporarily changing cultural behaviour around funerals.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and internal and external bleeding.