Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Ebola outbreak in Congo spreads to urban area

Congo's Ebola risk 'very high' as confirmed virus cases rise Congo Confirms 14 More Ebola Virus Cases
Johnnie Parks | 18 May, 2018, 10:28

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

The new case of Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people in Equateur Province in northwestern Congo, the World Health Organization confirmed Thursday.

Later on Friday, the WHO will convene an Emergency Committee of experts to advise on the global response to the outbreak, and decide whether it constitutes a "public health emergency of worldwide concern". "So far, all of them have occurred in remote and isolated areas, as was the case previous year in Likati, when the epidemic didn't spread." explains Henry Gray, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Mbandaka.

Previously the disease was suspected in patients only in rural parts of the country, but reaching the city of Mbandaka makes the outbreak, which was first reported on May 8, significantly bigger than previously thought.

The updates come after Congo reported its first case in a major city.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Ilunga said in a statement. "We now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", he said on Tuesday after visiting DRC at the weekend to assess the response. Fourteen cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests.

Results on the cases are expected within 24 hours, Ilunga said. The World Health Organization (WHO) deployed 4,000 dozes to Congo to help fight the latest outbreak.

Ebola is much harder to contain in urban areas, so this development compounds the risk of contagion and elevates the outbreak to the most serious since an Ebola epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

BBC graphic

Lacking an arsenal of drugs to treat or prevent the virus, doctors use classic tactics of isolating patients and tracing people who have been in contact with them.

The disease causes the liver and kidneys to shut down before the victim starts to bleed both internally and externally.

Bars, restaurants and public offices set up basins of water and soap dispensers for people to wash their hands, while at the city's airport, health ministry workers were taking travellers' temperatures with laser thermometers, an AFP reporter saw.

It spreads by direct contact with body fluids of an infected person or animal.

Ebola is a highly infectious and often fatal disease.

Humans contract the virus from infected animals, typically fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. 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.

Eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States in 2014, two of whom died, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.

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