The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting today, as Ebola threatens to spread through a Congolese city.
The Ebola cases were all located in the area around Bikoro, close to the Congo River, and around 150 km- about 95 miles - from the provincial capital Mbandaka, which is a busy port city.
One new case of Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Mbandaka, a city with a population of about 1.2 million, World Health Organization confirmed on Thursday, according to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN. The new, urban case is only the third confirmed case of the current outbreak; 20 others are probable, and 21 are suspected, bringing the total of potential cases to 44.
There has been one new death in Bikoro, where the first death took place.
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"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 anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province. Three cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests.
Those exposed to the suspected Ebola cases will for the first time in Congo receive Ebola vaccinations, the health minister said. Rapid detection of symptoms, immediate isolation of suspected cases and safe burial for those who succumb to the disease are paramount in ending an outbreak.
"This vaccine is no longer experimental".
"We're certainly not trying to cause any panic in the national or global community", Salama said. "Urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".
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.
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Salama also noted Mbandaka's proximity to neighboring countries, including Central African Republic and Republic of Congo.
Humans can be infected by other humans if they come in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons.
The agency says it is deploying about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in the city.
The DRC is at its ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976.
Among the MSF staff on the ground are some of the organisation's most experienced Ebola field workers, including medical personnel, experts in infection control and logisticians.
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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 virus initially is transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.