Ebola spreads to Congo city of 1M

The Republican Herald - - NATION / WORLD -

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo’s Ebola out­break has spread to a cross­roads city of more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple in a trou­bling turn that marks the first time the vast, im­pov­er­ished coun­try has en­coun­tered the lethal virus in an ur­ban area.

“This is a ma­jor, ma­jor gamechanger in the out­break,” Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of emer­gency pre­pared­ness and re­sponse, warned on Thurs­day.

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. The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the ru­ral area where the out­break was an­nounced last week.

Med­i­cal teams rushed to track down any­one thought to have had con­tact with in­fected peo­ple, while WHO con­tin­ued ship­ping thou­sands of doses of an ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cine.

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. Twenty-three of those peo­ple have died.

Until now, the out­break was con­fined to re­mote ru­ral ar­eas, where Ebola, which is spread by bod­ily flu­ids, trav­els more slowly.

“We’re cer­tainly not try­ing to cause any panic in the na­tional or in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Salama said. But “ur­ban Ebola can re­sult in an ex­po­nen­tial in­crease in cases in a way that ru­ral Ebola strug­gles to do.”

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