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Thread: DR Congo Ebola outbreak spreads to Mbandaka city

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    Default DR Congo Ebola outbreak spreads to Mbandaka city


    The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo has spread from the countryside into a city, prompting fears that the disease will be increasingly hard to control.

    Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed a case in Mbandaka, a city of a million about 130km (80 miles) from where the first cases were confirmed.

    The city is a major transportation hub with routes to the capital Kinshasa.

    At least 44 people are thought to have been infected with ebola and 23 deaths are being investigated.

    Ebola is a serious infectious illness that causes internal bleeding and often proves fatal. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious.

    Why Ebola keeps coming back
    Why Ebola is so dangerous
    How not to catch Ebola
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has called an emergency meeting of experts to talk about the risk that Ebola might spread beyond DR Congo.

    It will meet on Friday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency which would trigger a larger global response, like in the case of the 2014-16 Western African Ebola outbreak and the 2016 Zika virus in Latin America.

    Why is the spread to a city such a worry?
    The 2014-16 West Africa outbreak, which killed 11,300 people, was particularly deadly because it spread to the capital cities of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.


    Senior WHO official Peter Salama said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an "explosive increase" in cases.

    "This is a major development in the outbreak," he told the BBC. "We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there."

    Mr Salama, the WHO's deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said Mbandaka's location on the Congo river, widely used for transportation, raised the prospect of Ebola spreading to surrounding countries such as Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic as well as downstream to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people.

    "This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission," he said.

    Mapping the West Africa Ebola outbreak
    What is being done to contain the outbreak?
    So far only three of the 44 cases have been confirmed as Ebola and involve people who are still alive, the WHO says. There are a further 20 probable cases and 21 suspected cases.

    The cases were recorded in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province.



    Isolation and rudimentary Ebola case management facilities had been set up in Mbandaka to cope with cases, Mr Salama said.

    The disease may have been brought there, he said, by two or three people who had attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro to the south of Mbandaka before travelling to the city.

    On Wednesday more than 4,000 doses of an experimental vaccine sent by the WHO arrived in Kinshasa with another batch expected soon.

    These would be given as a priority to people in Mbandaka who had been in contact with those suspected of carrying the Ebola virus before people in any other affected area, in order to stop Ebola spreading in the urban region and beyond, Mr Salama said.

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    I am torn: part of me (the Christian part) thinks that we should help those people, but experience tells me that, in the case of Africa, no good deed goes unpunished.


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