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.

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