Update on Ebola outbreak in Congo by Health Minister
Now virus is detected in the northwest city of Mbandaka, with a population of about 1 million people minister calls it a new phase.
Congo Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga late on Wednesday said in a statement that the country's Ebola outbreak had entered "a new phase" after a case of the virus was detected in the northwest city of Mbandaka, with a population of about 1 million people.
The World Health Organization, which is deploying vaccines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had expressed concern about the disease reaching Mbandaka, which would make the outbreak, already believed to have killed 23 people, far harder to tackle.
So far, the 23 deaths believed to have been caused by Democratic Republic of Congo's latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus.
The first urban case to be announced threatens to change that. The World Health Organization, which on Wednesday deployed the first experimental vaccines in the vast central African country, had expressed concern about the disease reaching Mbandaka, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle.
Adding to concerns is the city's location on the banks of the Congo River, a major thoroughfare for trade and transport into the capital, Kinshasa. The Congo Republic is on the other side of the river.
"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone," Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement. "Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases."
He said authorities would intensify population tracing at all air, river and road routes out of the city.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in Congo since the disease made its first known appearance near its northern Ebola river in the 1970s.
Ebola is most feared for the internal and external bleeding it can cause in victims owing to damage done to blood vessels.
Before Wednesday's announcement, there had been only two cases of the virus confirmed by lab tests.