World Health Organization calls for emergency meeting to discuss global risks of outbreak


Last May, a small outbreak resulted in five confirmed cases and four deaths in a province neighboring Équateur.

The greatest cause for concern is a confirmed case of the deadly disease in Mbandaka, a city of about a million people and a transport hub on the Congo River in the north-west of the country. 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.

A single case of Ebola was confirmed in Mbandaka, a densely populated provincial capital on the Congo River, Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said late Wednesday. CDC epidemiologist Pierre Rollin, an Ebola expert said that the CDC would be sending in teams to be prepared for a long term aid. There had been 25 deaths, but no new infections among healthworkers, Jasarevic told reporters. The total includes 20 probable cases and 21 suspected ones.

"This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission", he said.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million. "There is a fridge that will be prepared (on Thursday) ... in Mbandaka and that will be at -80°".

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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".

The WHO is deploying about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in the city and inform local communities on treatment and prevention methods in collaboration with the country's Ministry of Health.

Moreover, MSF and its research arm Epicentre are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the implementation of the Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP as an additional measure to control the outbreak.

Ebola is a highly infectious and often fatal disease. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of Ebola found in Congo. The rituals around traditional burial practices are an issue that "always draws a lot of attention and reticence and complication", he said. It will be used to protect health workers and "rings" of contacts around each case.

Ebola is notoriously hard to contain, though recent outbreaks in Congo have been managed swiftly by the World Health Organization and Congolese health officials, gaining the government there a reputation as one of the continent's most prepared. On average, about 50 percent of people who become ill with Ebola die.