Congo Ebola outbreak spreads
KINSHASA, Congo — Congo’s Ebola outbreak has spread to a crossroads city of more than 1 million people, authorities said Thursday in a troubling turn that marks the first time the vast, impoverished country has had to fight the lethal virus in an urban area.
Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while the World Health Organization (WHO) continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine.
One confirmed case and one suspected case were discovered in an area that includes Mbandaka, a densely populated provincial capital on the Congo River, said Congo’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga. The city is about 150 km from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.
“The scenario has changed, and it has become most serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area,” said Henry Gray, emergency co-ordinator in Mbandaka for Doctors Without Borders.
A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo since last week: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO. Twenty-three people among those cases have died.
Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million, is a busy travel corridor and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million. It is an hour’s plane ride from Kinshasa or a four- to seven-day trip by river barge.
Doctors Without Borders said 514 people believed to have been in contact with infected people are being monitored. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases, depending on the strain.