World Health Organization raises Ebola risk assessment for DRC to 'very high'

World Health Organization raises Ebola risk assessment for DRC to 'very high'

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread to a city, the World Health Organisation said Thursday, raising concern the deadly virus may prove tougher to contain.

Concerns about the spread of the disease escalated Thursday when the health body announced the first case had been detected in Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people.

The spread of the virus from rural areas into a city has raised fears it could quickly spread and become harder to control.

Since the outbreak began, there has been a total of 45 cases: 14 confirmed, 21 probable and 10 suspected. No details were given on the death's links to the newly confirmed case. The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it a concerning development. "WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus".

The organization is working with health NGO Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other partners to boost the number of special isolation wards to treat patients.

Dr Peter Salama, WHO's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, said the confirmed urban case of Ebola "is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak".

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The case was confirmed in Wangata, one of three health zones of Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province in northwestern Congo. It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city.

Apart from World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as other humanitarian organisations, have teams on the ground, working to contain the outbreak. It involves vaccinating contacts of cases and suspected cases, contacts of those contacts and health care and other front-line workers.

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.

Results of a trial using the ring vaccination technique with the Merck shot, which is known as VSV-EBOV, in Guinea in West Africa in 2015 showed 100 percent protection in those vaccinated immediately. The WHO has sent 4,000 doses to Congo and said it will dispatch thousands more as needed in the coming days. 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.

This is the ninth outbreak, since the discovery of the Ebola virus in the country in 1976.

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said 514 people who are thought to have been in contact with infected people were now being monitored.

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