Spread Of Ebola In Congo A 'Game Changer'

Spread Of Ebola In Congo A 'Game Changer'

A victim of the deadly virus was identified in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, 150km from the rural area where the outbreak was first detected earlier this month, DRC's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said on Thursday. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour's flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

Since the outbreak began, there has been a total of 45 cases: 14 confirmed, 21 probable and 10 suspected. A concurrent but much smaller and unrelated Ebola outbreak took place in Congo in 2014 as well.

The UN health agency is deploying around 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka and is working with the DRC's Ministry of Health advising communities on prevention, treatment and reporting of new cases.

These would be given as a priority to people in Mbandaka who had been in contact with those suspected of carrying the Ebola virus before people in any other affected area, Mr Salama said. No details were given on the death's links to the newly confirmed case.

On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

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

"We're certainly not trying to cause any panic in the national or worldwide community", Salama said.

He added: "What we are saying though is that urban Ebola is very different phenomenon to rural Ebola because we know that people in urban areas can have far more contacts so that means that urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

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Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people, 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.

In Mbandaka and Bikoro, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by national health authorities and are being monitored, according to MSF.

The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Friday and called the risk to the public in Congo "very high". 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.

The experimental vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against Ebola.

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. The virus is transmitted to human through contact with wild animals and can then be passed from person to person.

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 virus is endemic to DRC, and causes an acute, serious illness, which is often fatal if untreated.