World Health Organization says Congo faces "very high" risk from Ebola outbreak

Leslie Hanson
May 18, 2018

Experts are alarmed by the spread of the virus to a major city.

Health workers are sprayed with chlorine after leaving an isolation ward with suspected Ebola patients at Bikoro Hospital - the epicenter of the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An outbreak of Ebola, once confined to remote rural areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now has spread to an area just outside of city of more than one million people, health officials said Thursday.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", Ilunga said, adding he was anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.

It said there had been one new death in Bikoro, where the Ebola outbreak was announced last week and where the first death took place.

"If we don't, then the virus may spread too far and too quickly", Ben Adinoyi, the Red Cross's regional healthcare chief, said in a statement.

That challenge amplifies greatly in urban environments where people move around more and have more contact with others than in the countryside. "How are we going to survive if the disease spreads here?"

Another 21 people have been, or continue to be, held in quarantine because they are suspected to have contracted the virus, Ilunga added, though medical tests have yet to confirm Ebola infection.

More than 11,000 people died in an Ebola outbreak that plagued the western African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for about 2 years from 2014.


Downstream from Mbandaka is the country's capital, Kinshasa, which is home to roughly 10 million people.

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of global concern", which would trigger a larger response.

"What we're saying though is that urban Ebola is very different phenomenon to rural Ebola because we know that people in urban areas can have far more contacts so that means that urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

They were recorded in Congo's Equateur province. Teams are also setting up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro, with 20 beds each.

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

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

Part of the difficulty in deploying the vaccine is that it must be transported and stored at between minus-60 and minus-80 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires powerful refrigerators.

The UN agency has been working with the Ministry of Health and Médecins Sans Frontières to conduct the ring fence vaccinations across the affected areas - where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated.

It is not possible to eradicate all the animals who might be a host for Ebola.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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