Congo’s Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak has spread to a city of more than 1 million people, a worrying shift as the deadly virus risks traveling more easily in densely populated areas.
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.
Two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones that include Mbandaka, the capital of northwestern Equateur province.
The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week, said Congo’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga.
One sample proved positive for Ebola, he said. That brings to three the number of confirmed Ebola cases.
A total of 44 cases have now been reported, including 23 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The total includes 20 probable cases and 21 suspected ones.
“We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone,” Ilunga said, adding he was worried because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.
The city of almost 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.
Mbandaka is an hour’s plane ride from Kinshasa or a four-to-seven-day trip by river barge, according to a map issued Thursday by the United Nations.