Ebola begins reaching cities in DRC

Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo

The Congolese Health Ministry is using one of them to inoculate doctors working with patients.

He added: "The control efforts are just now getting started, with equipment and expert personnel arriving to both identify and care for patients as well as to initiate the public health activities to curtail transmission and to stop the spread of the virus".

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", which would trigger a larger response. But Bikoro lies near the heavily traveled Congo River, which connects travelers not only to Mbandaka to the north, but to the capital city of Kinshasa, with more than 9 million residents, to the south.

Officials said there are 44 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of Ebola and that 23 people have died have died so far.

"Another major issue here is that this centre of Mbandaka is on the banks of Congo River, and that river connects to the internal hinterland of DRC but also to surrounding countries such as Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic, so this outbreak now has a real risk of national and regional amplification".

Ebola is a highly infectious and often fatal disease.

Isolation zones have been set up in Mbandaka's main hospital as well as Bikoro hospital, with more Ebola treatment centers being set up in Mbandaka and Bikoro.

It's the first time in the region's ongoing outbreak that a case has been detected in an urban health zone, with all other cases reported in remote, rural areas of Equateur province. Only one of the 25 deaths actually has been confirmed by the health ministry as Ebola.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

This Ebola vaccine isn't officially licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet, seemingly as a matter of the nation's slow and complicated approval process.

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said 514 people who are thought to have been in contact with infected people were now being monitored. Every time a new Ebola diagnosis is made vaccinations are delivered to all who may have come into contact with that person over a three week period.

"This development is worrisome", said who Director-General Tedros Adan Ghebreyesus.

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.

Ebola, which can cause multiple organ failure, is passed from human to human by contact through the mouth, nose, or broken skin with blood or other bodily fluids of those infected.

The current outbreak involves the same strain of the virus that hit three West African countries in 2013-15 and sparked an global panic.

"This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in the last 40 years".

The outbreak in West Africa that started in 2014 reached epidemic proportions and was the worst ever recorded, infecting more than 28,000 and killing more than 11,000.

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