'Major game-changer': Ebola spreads to big Congo city

AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks

AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks

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. And until now, all the confirmed cases of Ebola were in Bikoro health zone, some 90 miles south of Mbandaka.

As the outbreak continues to grow, fears that it may spread overseas linger as many remember the West African Epidemic in 2014.

Situated along the Congo River, Mbandaka is a densely populated transit hub at the crossroads of Equateur province, the health ministry said, raising fears that the Ebola virus will be easily passed on.

AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks.

WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama had told reporters on Thursday that the risk assessment was being reviewed.

And if the WHO and other organizations are able to overcome the logistical hurdles and prove that V920 is effective at preventing an outbreak from escalating, Ebola's reign of terror over the world might finally come to an end.

Forty-four cases have been reported in the outbreak so far, including three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to the WHO's tally. The ministry said no new health professionals had been contaminated.

The World Health Organization's lead response official called Thursday's new confirmed case "a game changer".

Oxfam announced Wednesday that it has made available an initial $68,000 (57,000 euros) to fight the spread of the disease.

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".

The fresh outbreak, publicly declared on May 8 with 23 deaths so far, had previously been reported in a rural part of Equateur Province in the vast country's northwest.

Chief executive Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the affected Bikoro area last weekend, saying he hoped for a "better way out" of the latest outbreak in DRC.

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

The city of nearly 1.2 million is on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor in the vast country and upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

It can also be introduced into the human population through contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified.

The current outbreak involves the same strain of the virus that hit three West African countries in 2013-15 and sparked an global panic. On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

An outbreak between 2014 and 2016 in west Africa was the worst ever, and killed more than 11,000.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and internal and external bleeding.

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