DR Congo Ebola outbreak spreads to city, says WHO

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 World Bank announced today that it is making Dollars 3 million immediately available to support the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)'s Ebola Virus Disease Response Plan (EVDRP) to fight the current Ebola outbreak in the country. "Two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka, a city of almost 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..."

In a separate outbreak update today, the WHO said there are four cases from the Wangata health zone, including the confirmed case and three suspected illnesses.

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.

"In the past, in most of the Ebola outbreaks in DRC, it's been rural and fairly self-limited, but now we know that populations of more than a million are at risk", Salama said in Geneva.

An experimental but highly effective vaccine is being deployed, with health workers being vaccinated first, but it normally needs to be kept 80 degrees Celsius below freezing in a humid region where daytime temperatures hover around 30.

"Local volunteers and health workers are the community's alarm system", said Ben Adinoyi, IFRC Regional Head of Health and Care, who is now based in Kinshasa.

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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. The Congo Republic is on the other side of the river. And the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, where over 730,000 people live, is not too far away.

In the eight previous Ebola outbreaks in the DRC over the last 40 years, the virus has never reached a major city. "This requires a more urgent and comprehensive response, and a need for increased USA leadership and involvement".

As of yet, the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies, The Wellcome Trust, the United Kingdom, the UN, and Gavi have contributed $8 million to contain the outbreak, which WHO estimates will cost at least $26 million to quell over three months. Fortunately, these Ebola positive cases are present in the isolated regions.

Last week, President Donald Trump proposed cutting the $252 million in Ebola response funds for USA agencies.

Until now, twenty-three deaths have been reported due to the Ebola outbreak. There are now 3 confirmed cases, along with 21 suspected and 20 probable ones. In 23 cases, patients have died, said Kalenga, the country's health minister.

MSF Emergency teams are already on site and have set up an isolation zone in Mbandaka's main hospital (5 beds) and one in Bikoro hospital (10 beds).

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This is a developing story.

The first batch of over 4,000 Ebola vaccines was sent by the World Health Organization to Kinshasa on Wednesday. As a result, health workers and family members of infected people are at higher risk of infection.

The last outbreak also took place in the Congo and killed four people past year.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is also assisting the country amid the current outbreak, said communities across Equateur province must be alerted of the rising risk of Ebola to stop the virus from spreading further.

"This is a concerning development", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. There is enough vaccine to cover those identified and many more; the World Health Organization has a stockpile of 4,300 doses in Geneva and 300,000 doses in the U.S.

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