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World Health Organization says Ebola outbreak has spread to DR Congo city
18 May 2018, 09:29 | Melissa Porter
14 confirmed Ebola cases in Congo as emergency meeting held
Someone sick with Ebola might not be able to provide a comprehensive list of everyone they've come in contact with. Helicopter and motorcycle are the only ways to reach Bikoro from Mbandaka, but an airstrip has been rapidly cleared for small planes to land with supplies.
But the UN's health agency confirmed that an Ebola case has been recorded in the city of Mbandaka, which lies roughly 150 kilometres from the Bikoro area where the outbreak originated.
Only three cases, one of which was fatal, have been confirmed by laboratory tests since an outbreak of the virus was identified by the health ministry on May 8, however.
Last week, a top World Health Organization official warned that if the virus reached Mbandaka, the DRC could be confronted with yet another Ebola crisis.
A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo in this outbreak: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO.
The WHO, which has been coordinating with DRC's health ministry in an attempt to combat the outbreak, said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday to consider the possible global risks posed by Ebola.
Health officials said the newest case was worrying.
Doctors Without Borders, or MSF as its often called by its French acronym, said it too is stepping up its response to stop the spread of the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It's the first time in the region's ongoing outbreak that a case has been detected in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province.
The city of nearly 1.2 million is on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor in the vast country and upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.
"This is a major development in the outbreak", said Peter Salama, the WHO's deputy director general of emergency preparedness and response.
This time though, health officials have another, far more proactive weapon in the fight against Ebola: an experimental vaccine known as Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV, or V920.
Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while World Health Organization continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine. It involves vaccinating contacts of those feared infected, contacts of those contacts, and health care and other front-line workers.
The average fatality rate among those infected with the virus is about 50 percent, according to the WHO.
Nine Ebola outbreaks have occurred in DRC since the virus was first identified in 1976.
The 2014-16 West Africa outbreak became particularly deadly when it spread to the capitals of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
He said the disease could have been taken there by people who attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro, the south of Mbandaka, before travelling to the city.
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.
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