Medical

Ebola in Africa erupted into a major city

Ebola in Africa erupted into a major city

Now, the world is once again on the brink of another Ebola outbreak, this time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Congo's Ebola outbreak has spread to a crossroads city of more than 1 million people in a troubling turn that marks the first time the vast, impoverished country has encountered the lethal virus in an urban area.

The deployment of this experimental vaccine will prove a major test for not only the efficacy of the vaccine but for global health strategies created to respond to major viral outbreaks such as this.

At least 44 people are believed to have been infected in the current outbreak and 23 deaths are being investigated. The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.

A ministry statement on Thursday said that the total number of Ebola cases is now 45, including 10 suspected, 21 probable and 14 confirmed. Twenty-three of those people have died.

Salama also noted Mbandaka's proximity to neighboring countries, including Central African Republic and Republic of Congo.

"With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become most serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area".

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".




Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, called the new development "a major, major game-changer in the outbreak".

At present, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by the national health authorities, and they are now under monitoring.

How "experimental" is this Ebola vaccine?

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to neighbouring west African countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people out of almost 29,000 registered cases. A similar strategy was used to vaccinate against smallpox decades ago.

The UN agency has been working with the Ministry of Health and Médecins Sans Frontières to conduct the ring fence vaccinations across the affected areas - where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated.

"This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in the last 40 years". The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. Helicopter and motorcycle are the only ways to reach Bikoro from Mbandaka, but an airstrip has been rapidly cleared for small planes to land with supplies.

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

The current outbreak involves the same strain of the virus that hit three West African countries in 2013-15 and sparked an global panic.


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