Sunday, 20 May, 2018

14 confirmed Ebola cases in Congo as World Health Organization holds emergency meeting

AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks
Anna Jefferson | 18 May, 2018, 11:22

Who officials now set the contacts of the sick EBOLA person with healthy people to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mbandaka had three suspected cases in addition to the confirmed case.

A victim of the deadly virus was identified in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, 150km from the rural area where the outbreak was first detected earlier this month, DRC's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said on Thursday.

The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting on Friday and called the risk to the public in Congo "very high".

The WHO statement said there had been 21 suspected, 20 probable and 3 confirmed cases of Ebola between 4 April and 15 May - a total of 44 cases, including 15 deaths.

The WHO, which has been coordinating with DRC's health ministry in an attempt to combat the outbreak, said it would hold an emergency meeting on Friday to consider the possible global risks posed by Ebola.

The announcement came from the office of the Congo's health minister late Wednesday night after it was learned that there was a single case of Ebola reported in Mbandaka, a densely populated city just under 100 miles from the site of the last reported case. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour's flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is located on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.

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"This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said of the new urban case.

In Mbandaka and Bikoro, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by national health authorities and are being monitored, according to MSF.

The fresh outbreak, publicly declared on May 8 with 23 deaths so far, had previously been confined to a very remote, rural area in Equateur Province in the northwest of the country. The vaccination campaign would first target health workers. The WHO has sent 4,000 doses to Congo and said it will dispatch thousands more as needed in the coming days. There were no cases in the Congo during that outbreak.

Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while the World Health Organization continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine.

The disease caused by Ebola virus also known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a highly contagious acute viral disease.

Ilunga said of the current 25 deaths, only one has been confirmed as Ebola, adding that no new health professionals have been contaminated.

Ebola, a hemorrhagic disease which is endemic to tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa, was identified in the 1970s, but historically claimed a relatively small number of lives, despite its mortality rates reaching as high as 50 percent, as its spread between isolated villages and towns was limited. The virus was initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

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