Congo's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case

The death of Ebola

The death of Ebola

Mbandaka is about 120 kilometers north of Bikoro, a rural area where the outbreak was first detected.

The WHO is to convene an Emergency Committee meeting on Friday to consider response to the outbreak, the United Nations organization's spokesman, Christian Lindmeier, said. The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.

Ebola, a hemorrhagic disease which is endemic to tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa, was identified in the 1970s, but historically claimed a relatively small number of lives, despite its mortality rates reaching as high as 50 percent, as its spread between isolated villages and towns was limited.

"We're certainly not trying to cause any panic in the national or worldwide community", Salama said.

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. It is an hour's plane ride from Kinshasa or a four- to seven-day trip by river barge.

Salama also noted Mbandaka's proximity to neighboring countries, including Central African Republic and Republic of Congo. However, the 2014 ebola crisis resulted in the virus infecting individuals in a more populated region in West Africa, where about 11,000 people out of approximately 28,000 infected had died as a result.

"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.

They work backwards from each infected person, figuring out everyone they might have come in contact with and monitoring those individuals for any sign at all of infection.

"The scenario has changed, and it has become most serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area", said Henry Gray, emergency coordinator in Mbandaka for Doctors Without Borders.

"This is a significant development because it's harder to control an outbreak in an urban setting because there are many more prospects for contact than in a rural area", World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Al Jazeera.

World Health Organization has sent 4,000 doses of the experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo and said it will send thousands more in the coming days as needed.

The vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against Ebola. 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 the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in the last 40 years". The virus initially is transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. Teams are also setting up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro, with 20 beds each.

The current outbreak involves the same strain of the virus that hit three West African countries in 2013-15 and sparked an worldwide panic.

Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain and fatigue, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and bleeding - both internal and external - apparent in the gums, eyes, nasal passages and faeces.

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