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

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

"The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and World Health Organization and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area", said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa. Teams are also setting up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro, with 20 beds each.

The central African country has previously had several Ebola outbreaks.

The announcement came from the office of the Congo's health minister late Wednesday night after it was learned that there was a single case of Ebola reported in Mbandaka, a densely populated city just under 100 miles from the site of the last reported case. The other death was a suspected case in Wangata. "If we don't, then the virus may spread too far and too quickly". The WHO has called an emergency meeting over a health crisis of potentially "international concern". So far, Congolese medics have identified 44 suspected cases of Ebola, with three confirmed by lab tests. Ebola, endemic in Congo, is often transmitted to humans through eating contaminated meat, but can be caught through any close contact with an infected animal. Until now, the outbreak was confined to remote rural areas, where Ebola, which is spread by bodily fluids, travels more slowly.

Later on Friday, the WHO will convene an Emergency Committee of experts to advise on the worldwide response to the outbreak, and decide whether it constitutes a "public health emergency of global concern".

But the case in Mbandaka may be a game changer, as an urban environment makes it easier for the deadly virus to spread.

In this photo taken Saturday, May 12, 2018, health workers don protective clothing as they prepare to attend to patients in the isolation ward to diagnose and treat suspected Ebola patients, at Bikoro Hospital in Bikoro, the rural area where the Ebola outbreak was announced last week, in Congo.

The latest Ebola case in the Democratic Republic of Congo comes amid an outbreak of violence that has spread rapidly in the country's restive Kasai region. 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.

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.

The vaccine, from pharmaceutical firm Merck, is unlicensed but was effective in limited trials during the West Africa outbreak.

The outbreak in West Africa that started in 2014 reached epidemic proportions and was the worst ever recorded, infecting more than 28,000 and killing more than 11,000.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified.

Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain and fatigue, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and bleeding - both internal and external - apparent in the gums, eyes, nasal passages and faeces.