First urban case of Ebola in Congo a 'game-changer'

First urban case of Ebola in Congo a 'game-changer'

And despite the frightening threat of this devastating virus spreading to one of the country's larger cities, at least health workers now have a new weapon in their arsenal.

"This is a major, major game-changer in the outbreak", said Dr Peter Salama, the WHO's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response.

"This all will, as you can imagine in this challenging environment, take some time to function optimally". Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people.

A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo in this outbreak: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO.

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to neighbouring west African countries Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 11,300 people out of almost 29,000 registered cases.

Doctors Without Borders, or MSF as its often called by its French acronym, said it too is stepping up its response to stop the spread of the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola.

Until now, the cases and deaths were reported from the rural Bikoro health zone, almost 150 kilometers from Mbandaka, allowing authorities to attempt ring-fencing vaccinations in the the affected areas. It is emphasized that so far, confirmed cases of EVD have been recorded near the city Bikoro, located 150 km from Mbandaka.

The WHO and the worldwide group, Doctors Without Borders, are sending emergency response teams to contain the highly contagious disease.

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According to NBC, an initial batch of 4,000 vaccines have been shipped to the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital city, where they'll be administered to individuals who come in contact with ebola patients, as well as people who are in contact with those initial vaccinated individuals.

The city of nearly 1.2 million is on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor in the vast country and upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million.

Last week, a top World Health Organization official warned that if the virus reached Mbandaka, the DRC could be confronted with yet another Ebola crisis.

Medical teams rushed to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people, while World Health Organization continued shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine.

The vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against Ebola.

The UN agency has been working with the Ministry of Health and Médecins Sans Frontières to conduct the ring fence vaccinations across the affected areas - where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated.

More than 11,000 people died in an Ebola outbreak that plagued the western African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for about 2 years from 2014.

The first human outbreaks of Ebola occurred in 1976, one in the north of what is now Congo and in the region that is now South Sudan.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and internal and external bleeding.

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