Fears of 'explosive' outbreak as ebola hits Congo port city

Ebola outbreak

Ebola outbreak

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and worldwide river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries", the World Health Organization said.

Congo's health minister says Ebola has spread to a city, the capital of Equateur province, a worrying shift in the new outbreak in the northwest.

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to neighbouring west African countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people out of almost 29,000 registered cases. Whilst the strategy is being put in place, the "pillars" of an Ebola intervention are taking effect in order to stem the spread of the disease: early treatment and isolation of people who are sick; tracing and following up contacts; informing people about the disease, how to prevent it and where to seek care; supporting existing healthcare; and temporarily changing cultural behaviour around funerals. "Now that we are facing the Ebola virus we must use all the resources we have".

"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. Previous reports of the disease had all been in remote areas where Ebola might spread more slowly.

Senior WHO official Peter Salama said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an "explosive increase" in cases. The outbreak, in the northeast of the country, has affected 44 people who have presented symptoms of haemorrhagic fever in the region; 3 confirmed as Ebola, and 23 deaths have been notified by the national health authorities.

An outbreak between 2014 and 2016 in west Africa was the worst ever, and killed more than 11,000.

A ministry statement late Thursday said that the total number of Ebola cases is now 45, including 10 suspected, 21 probable and 14 confirmed.

The WHO is sending 7,540 experimental vaccines to DRC, 4,300 of which have already arrived in the capital, Kinshasa, as part of a coordinated response to the outbreak.

The UN health agency is deploying around 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka and is working with the DRC's Ministry of Health advising communities on prevention, treatment and reporting of new cases. Basic infrastructure - hospitals, roads, electricity - is a major obstacle in remote areas.

There have been three outbreaks in DR Congo since the 2014-16 epidemic. Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.

It can also be introduced into the human population through contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

WHO-partner, MSF, has also deployed its teams and is working with United Nations agencies to strengthen health capacity to treat Ebola patients. As long as humans come in contact with them, there is always a possibility that Ebola could return.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.