Fast-spreading Ebola virus threatens more lives in Congo DR

The Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday announced eleven Ebola cases, including two related deaths in the country’s northwest.

According to the ministry of health, about 45 Ebola cases has been recorded as “suspected (10), probable (21) and confirmed (14).”

The first death occurred in Bikoro, where the outbreak was announced last week. Another victim of the disease has also died within the same location. The deaths had epidemiological ties.

Although another death in Wangata remains a suspected case, the Associated Press quotes Congo DR’s health ministry as saying that out of 25 deaths so far, only one has been confirmed as Ebola.

No new health professionals have been contaminated, the ministry added.

‘The scenario has changed, and it has become most serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area,’ said Henry Gray, emergency coordinator in Mbandaka for Doctors Without Borders.

One nurse had reportedly died since the outbreak began and three others were counted among suspected cases.

The World Health Organization said in a Friday report that Ebola has spread to the city of Mbandaka, about 150km from Bikoro. The ugly developments sparked concerns that the deadly virus may prove hard to contain.

As of May 8, WHO recorded 23 deaths against the fast-spreading Ebola virus. The scourge, which was previously confined to a very remote rural area in Equateur Province in the northwest of the country, has become a national emergency.

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said on Wednesday that two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones, adding that one sample proved positive for the deadly Ebola virus. This finding adds up the number of confirmed Ebola cases in health zones to 3.

‘Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, with higher spread potential,’ Ilunga said.

‘We have epidemiologists on ground, working to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified,’ he added.

‘This is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak,’ Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, warned on Thursday. ‘We’re certainly not trying to cause any panic in the national or international community… but urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do.’

WHO said 514 people believed to have been in contact with infected people are being monitored, adding that over 30 experts have been deployed to assist health officials in the city.

‘Those exposed will for the first time in Congo receive Ebola vaccinations,’ Ilunga said.

About 4,000 doses have been sent to Congo and the aid organization said more vaccines will be dispatched in the coming days as may be required.

Speaking on the new urban case, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO director-general) said: This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola.’

Symptoms of the Ebola virus generally include: sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, and this is followed by vomiting and diarrhea.

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