Congo confirms 11 new Ebola cases

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A victim of the deadly virus was identified in the northwestern city of Mbandaka, 150km from the rural area where the outbreak was first detected earlier this month, DRC's Health Minister Oly Ilunga said on Thursday.

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and global river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries", the World Health Organization said.

The fear is if the virus reaches large urban areas, it could spread quickly, with devastating consequences.

A total of 45 cases of hemorrhagic fever have now been reported, including 25 deaths, the health ministry said Thursday. That brings to three the number of confirmed Ebola cases.

In this photo taken Saturday, May 12, 2018, health workers don protective clothing as they prepare to attend to patients in the isolation ward to diagnose and treat suspected Ebola patients, at Bikoro Hospital in Bikoro, the rural area where the Ebola outbreak was announced last week, in Congo.

"Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field with community relays to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases", Ilunga said. "We now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", he said on Tuesday after visiting DRC at the weekend to assess the response. "WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus".

These would be given as a priority to people in Mbandaka who had been in contact with those suspected of carrying the Ebola virus before people in any other affected area, Mr Salama said.

Senior WHO official Peter Salama said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an "explosive increase" in cases.

In Mbandaka and Bikoro, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by national health authorities and are being monitored, according to MSF.

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As the outbreak continues to grow, fears that it may spread overseas linger as many remember the West African Epidemic in 2014.

"This is a concerning development", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "Now that we are facing the Ebola virus we must use all the resources we have".

A 2016 study found it to be 100% effective in trials in Guinea in coordination with the country's Ministry of Health after the 2014-15 outbreak.

The WHO is sending 7,540 experimental vaccines to DRC, 4,300 of which have already arrived in the capital, Kinshasa, as part of a coordinated response to the outbreak.

Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primates such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, is caused by one of five Ebola viruses.

Eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States in 2014, two of whom died, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in the last 40 years".

Ebola is lethal and highly contagious, which makes it hard to contain - especially in urban environments where people are mobile and come into more contact with others.

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