Congo's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case

Ebony Scott
May 18, 2018

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.

The central African country has previously had several Ebola outbreaks.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Ilunga said, adding he was anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.

This includes one new laboratory-confirmed case from the city of Mbandaka, which has a population of more than a million people, and is a busy port city located on the Congo River.

"We now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

West Africa experienced the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola over a two-year period beginning in March 2014; a total of 28,616 confirmed, probable and suspected cases were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 11,310 deaths, according to the WHO.

Ebola is notoriously hard to contain, though recent outbreaks in Congo have been managed swiftly by the WHO and Congolese health officials, gaining the government there a reputation as one of the continent's most prepared.

DRC has entered a "new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Mr Ilunga said. Its early flu-like symptoms are not always easily detected. Ebola is thought to be spread over long distances by fruit bats and is often transmitted to humans via contaminated bushmeat.

A single case of Ebola was confirmed in Mbandaka, a densely populated provincial capital on the Congo River, Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said late Wednesday.

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Persistent rain and lack of roads have hampered the effort to contain the outbreak so far.

In total, according to the latest data, we are talking about 45 cases, including 14 cases confirmed.

Part of the difficulty in deploying the vaccine is that it must be transported and stored at between -50C and -60C, requiring powerful refrigerators.

Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease expert and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said the outbreak had "all the features of something that could turn really nasty". This new case is linked with the epicentre of the epidemic, the east of Lake Tumba.

Isolation zones have been set up in Mbandaka's main hospital, and in Bikoro, WHO said.

Mbandaka had three suspected cases in addition to the confirmed case.

At present the teams of healthcare personnel are trying to look for all the contacts of the infected person to seek out those at risk.

Notably, about 23 people have reportedly died and 42 people have contracted the virus since Epola outbreak began earlier in May. The vaccine, produced by the pharmaceutical giant Merck, is not yet licensed, although the World Health Organization has cleared it for "compassionate use".

Other reports by GizPress

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