Ebola outbreak spreads to DR Congo's city of Mbandaka

The recent Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached a major city in the country, intensifying fears that the outbreak is slowly getting out of control.

DR Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed that the city of Mbandaka has witnessed a case of the virus. The city is about 130km from where the first
cases were confirmed earlier this month and a major transportation centre for people headed to the capital Kinshasa.

A Senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, Peter Salama, said the new case in the city of Mbandaka indicates the possiblity for an "explosive increase" in cases.

Speaking with the BBC, Salama who is also the body's Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response said: "This is a major development in the outbreak. We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there."

He also noted Mbandaka's location on the Congo river, widely used for transportation, increases the probability the virus reaching neighbouring countries like Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic as well as downstream to Kinshasa, a city of 10 million people.

"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.

The WHO says cases of Ebola have been recorded in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, with 430 people identified to have had contact with the disease. The organisation says it is also working on tracing more than 4,000 contacts of Ebola patients, who are spread across north-west DR Congo.

Over 4,000 doses of an experimental vaccine sent by the WHO arrived in the country on Wednesday, with another batch expected soon.

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