Ebola outbreak stokes fears as bug spreads to city
Health officials are bracing for the worst as an Ebola outbreak has spread from a rural area in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a city of more than 1 million people.
Three suspected cases of the killer virus have been reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka, the capital of northwestern Equateur province with a population of nearly 1.2 million people.
One of those cases tested positive.
Mbandaka is located about 93 miles from Bikoro, a rural area where the Ebola outbreak was announced last week, and along the Congo River, which serves as a central transportation route.
“Boats move up and down the river, people and goods travel. One of the risks is that someone with the virus could easily access one of the boats and start moving up and down,” Jose Barahona, country director in Congo for UK charity Oxfam, told the Telegraph.
Congo Health Minister Oly Illunga worried the disease could wreak havoc because of Mbandaka’s dense population.
“We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone,” Illunga said.
A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported – including 23 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The total includes 20 probable cases and 21 suspected ones.
The WHO is deploying some 30 experts to monitor the situation in the city.
“Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field with community relays to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases,” Ilunga said.
For the first time in Congo, people exposed to suspected cases will receive Ebola vaccinations. The WHO has already sent 4,000 doses of the experimental drug and will send thousands more in the coming days.
The vaccine has proven to be highly effective – it was tested in Guinea during an outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa from 2014 to 2016.
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified.
There’s no specific treatment for Ebola, which is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases without preventive measures.
The quick-spreading virus is transmitted through bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms or those who’ve died from the disease. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
With Post wires