World Health Organisation worried as Ebola emerges in urban area

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a statement on Thursday voicing its concern over a new case of the Ebola virus in a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Prior to the diagnosis, all cases that are part of the outbreak were contained in remote villages of the country. WHO planned to contain the virus in these villages to curb the spread of the deadly disease. After the Ministry of Health of the DRC conducted tests on a suspected case in the city of Wangata, a sample was found to have tested positive for Ebola.

The newly discovered case could threaten Wangata’s abundant population of 1.2-million people.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said, “The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area.”

WHO says it will be deploying health experts in Wangata to “conduct surveillance in the city” and working with the Ministry of Health to help provide education on and treatment of the disease.

Prior to the outbreak in the city, most of the Ebola cases occurred in Bikoro health zone in the Equateur Province, which is an extremely remote and medically under-resourced area.

The DRC is facing an ongoing Ebola epidemic. From April 4 to May 15, there have been 44 reported cases of Ebola. Out of these 44 cases, 3 are confirmed, 20 are probably and 21 are suspected, according to WHO. According to a previous article, “Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever that is spread through direct human-to-human contact leading to death in many cases.”

The new case comes just after WHO deployed 4 000 doses of Ebola vaccine to DRC on Wednesday. The vaccine, known as recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus–Zaire Ebola virus (rVSV-ZEBOV) is still experimental, but was effective in a 2015 trial in Guinea. WHO, along with the ministry of health, Gavi and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), hope that the vaccines will contain and exterminate the virus.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is optimistic the health organisation — along with its partners — will be able to beat the virus.

“This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola. WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus,” he said.

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