Doctors sweat 1st urban case of Ebola

Ebola has spread through the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ebola has spread through the Democratic Republic of Congo

The World Health Organization (WHO) is to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the risk of Ebola spreading from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Medical teams hurried to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people as this vast, impoverished nation - a veteran of eight previous Ebola outbreaks - for the first time is fighting the virus in an urban area.

Health experts working to contain the Congo outbreak, which was first reported on May 8, say a cold chain will be in place to get the vaccines from Congo's capital Kinshasa to the affected areas within a few days. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid, and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious.

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and worldwide river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries".

The EU funding announced today will ensure deployment of relevant surge capacity to the affected areas, surveillance and contact tracing of Ebola victims as well as active case finding for early detection of those infected.

Salama and Serafini said one tricky task may be managing a scenario where larger groups of people not identified as high-risk contacts of a Ebola case might demand the vaccine for themselves or their family.

"This is a major development in the outbreak", he told the BBC. "We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there".

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

The deadly disease has claimed many victims
GETTY OUTBREAK The deadly disease has claimed many victims

Results of a trial using the ring vaccination technique with the Merck shot, which is known as VSV-EBOV, in Guinea in West Africa in 2015 showed 100 percent protection in those vaccinated immediately.

What is being done to contain the outbreak?

The World Health Organization's efforts to curb the spread of an Ebola outbreak are on a war footing ahead of an emergency meeting it has called for to discuss global risks, Reuters reported.

"The vaccine will help us save lives in the Equateur province, in the DRC and in neighbouring countries". Mbandaka is the provincial capital.

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).

Ebola is lethal and highly contagious, which makes it hard to contain - especially in urban environments where people are mobile and come into more contact with others.

When someone dies of Ebola, they are enormously infectious after death because their bodies are full of a huge number of virus particles.

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