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Ebola cases on rise, reach 14 in DRC

18 May 2018

Congo Central African Health Ministry has reported another 14 confirmed Ebola cases while observing 31 who have showed symptoms.

WHO said health workers had identified 430 people who may have had contact with the disease and were working to trace more than 4,000 contacts of Ebola patients who had spread across north-west DR Congo.

Currently, WHO said it considers the public health risk to be high at the national level, moderate at the regional level and low at the worldwide level.

The case raised concerns that the virus, previously found in more rural areas, would be tougher to contain and could reach downstream to the capital Kinshasa, which has a population of 10 million.

Later on Friday, the WHO will convene an Emergency Committee of experts to advise on the worldwide response to the outbreak, and decide whether it constitutes a "public health emergency of global concern".

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Concerns about the spread of the disease escalated Thursday when the health body announced the first case had been detected in Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people.

The spread of the virus from rural areas into a city has raised fears it could quickly spread and become harder to control. But "urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

It said the new death has epidemiologic ties to another case.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement: "The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning".

Meanwhile, humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders has intensified its response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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"This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general.

The WHO statement said there had been 21 suspected, 20 probable and 3 confirmed cases of Ebola between April 4 and May 15, a total of 44 cases, including 15 deaths.

The Health Ministry also informed that the vaccine which is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa will go in use from the weekend.

The vaccine supplies would be enough to vaccinate 50 rings of 150 people, the World Health Organization said.

She warned that the disease can be transmitted via human contact with the body fluids of an infected person and is fatal. One challenge will be keeping the vaccine cold in a region with poor infrastructure and patchy electricity.

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This is the ninth outbreak, since the discovery of the Ebola virus in the country in 1976.

Ebola cases on rise, reach 14 in DRC