Congo's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case
- Luis Castro
The WHO's expert committee will decide whether to declare a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", which would trigger more global involvement, mobilising research and resources, the WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said on Thursday.
Until now, all the confirmed Ebola cases were reported from Bikoro health zone, which is also in Equateur Province but at a distance of almost 150 km from Mbandaka.
Oly Ilunga Kalenga says, "We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone".
There are several types of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry noted; thus, not all suspected cases are necessarily Ebola. It was tested in Guinea in 2015 during the outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa from 2014 to 2016.
"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.
Those exposed to the suspected Ebola cases will for the first time in DRC receive Ebola vaccinations, the health minister said. He said epidemiologists are working to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified.
So far, the 23 deaths believed to have been caused by the outbreak have been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ringfencing the virus.
Mbandaka is located by the banks of the Congo River and serves as a vital travel hub. Tens of millions of people live along the river, and the capitals of Congo, the Central African Republic and Congo Republic lie along it and its tributaries.
World Health Organization figures show there have already been 44 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of Ebola in this outbreak, and 23 people have died. "This requires a more urgent and comprehensive response, and a need for increased USA leadership and involvement". The World Health Organization dispatched its first set of about four thousand shots to the Kinshasa on May 16, 2018.
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As of yet, the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies, The Wellcome Trust, the United Kingdom, the UN, and Gavi have contributed $8 million to contain the outbreak, which WHO estimates will cost at least $26 million to quell over three months.
The other Ebola cases were spread across sites in remote areas where the disease might not travel quickly.
Last week, President Donald Trump proposed cutting the $252 million in Ebola response funds for USA agencies. "It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city", said Henry Gray, emergency coordinator in Mbandaka for Doctors Without Borders.
This is a developing story.
An infected person is estimated to have between 100-150 "contacts" with other people per day, a figure that may be higher in densely populated areas, Jasarevic added. "Now that we are facing the Ebola virus we must use all the resources we have".
The WHO has received approval to use an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the oubreak in the Congo.
Outbreaks of Ebola virus appear to begin when a human comes into contact with an infected animal or its body fluids.
"We are very concerned and we are preparing for all scenarios including worst-case scenarios", said Peter Salama, director of the WHO Emergency Management Program during his visit accompanied by Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kinshasa earlier this week.