Ebola Confirmed In DRC Port City Of More Than 1M People, Increasing Risk Of Disease’s Rapid Spread

Associated Press: Ebola spreads to city, entering 3 health zones in Congo
“Congo’s Ebola outbreak has spread to a city, the capital of the northwestern Equateur province, a worrying shift as the risk of infection is more easily passed on in densely populated urban areas. Two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week, said Congo Health Minister Oly Ilunga…” (Mwanamilongo/Petesch, 5/17).

CNN: Ebola outbreak in DRC enters ‘new phase’ as it spreads to large city
“…The new case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) has been confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people in Equateur Province in northwestern DRC, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed Thursday. … A total of 44 cases of hemorrhagic fever have now been reported, including 23 deaths, according to the health ministry. Three cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests…” (McKirdy/Senthilingam, 5/17).

Reuters: Congo warns of “new phase” in Ebola outbreak after first urban case
“…So far, … Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus. The first urban case to be announced threatens to change that. The World Health Organization, which on Wednesday deployed the first experimental vaccines in the vast central African country, had expressed concern about the disease reaching Mbandaka, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle…” (Mwarabu et al., 5/16).

Vox: We finally have an Ebola vaccine. We’re about to use it in an outbreak.
“…This time, health officials also have a vaccine ready to use early on in an outbreak. (To date, the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine’s clinical trials only involved people in outbreaks that had already been simmering for some time.) … If the experimental vaccine works to prevent Ebola from spreading, it could mean major outbreaks involving Ebola’s Zaire strain, like the one we saw in West Africa a few years ago, will be a thing of the past…” (Belluz, 5/17).

Washington Post: First confirmed urban Ebola case is a ‘game changer’ in Congo outbreak
“…With the confirmed arrival of the outbreak in a major city, the number of people who are likely to have interacted with infected individuals increases exponentially. Both the fact that Mbandaka is densely populated and that it is a bustling port heighten the risk of rapid spread” (Bearak, 5/17).

Additional coverage of this story is available from Bloomberg, CIDRAP News, Deutsche Welle, and Huffington Post.

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