DR Congo Ebola outbreak spreads to Mbandaka city

So far, 42 people have been infected and 23 people have died from the ebola outbreak that spread from the countryside into the major city 

Health workers wear protective equipment before attending to patients. (Photo: Getty Images)
Health workers wear protective equipment before attending to patients. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Ebola outbreak in Congo has has entered a “new phase”, spreading from the countryside into the city Mbandaka, with a population of almost 1 million people, the health minister said.

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

So far, the 23 deaths believed to have been caused by Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus. 42 people have been infected so far.

Confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola have been recorded in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

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

The vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Merck is unlicensed but was effective in limited trials during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Adding to concerns is the city’s location on the banks of the Congo River, a major thoroughfare for trade and transport into the capital, Kinshasa. The Congo Republic is on the other side of the river.

“We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone,” Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement. “Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases.”

Some 11,300 people died of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016.

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