'Game-changer': Congo's Ebola outbreak spreads


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. Previously, infections and deaths had been limited to the rural Bikoro health zone, almost 150 kilometers away.

The meeting of the Emergency Committee would decide whether to declare an official public health emergency, which would trigger more worldwide involvement and free up more resources to deal with the outbreak.

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

"If you remember from the previous outbreak, it took a whole lot for the global community to understand it's a unsafe disease.Today it seems as if as soon as the first case was declared at least a lot of people are coming in to help", said Axelle Ronsse of the organisation.

The city of about one million people is a transport hub on the River Congo, prompting fears that the virus could now spread further, threatening the capital Kinshasa and surrounding countries. A newly confirmed case in a densely populated part of the country will complicate attempts to control the outbreak, the statement said.

Congo's health ministry late Thursday said the total number of cases is 45, including 10 suspected and 21 probable ones.

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

"There is absolutely no reason why this current outbreak should grow any further", said Dr Kamalini Lokuge, the head of the Australian National University's Humanitarian Research Program. The Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo are close by.

This time, the race to encircle the contagion is underway: World Health Organization has deployed about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka, and Medecins Sans Frontieres opened treatment centres in the city's hospital and the small town of Bikoro, where the latest outbreak began.

It is the ninth time Ebola outbreak that has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and the outbreak comes less than a year after one that killed eight people.

Humans can be infected by other humans if they come in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons.

WHO-partner, MSF, has also deployed its teams and is working with United Nations agencies to strengthen health capacity to treat Ebola patients.