Ebola found in large Congo city raises major outbreak fears

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Moreover, MSF and its research arm Epicentre are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the implementation of the Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP as an additional measure to control the outbreak.

"At least 44 people are believed to have been infected" during a new outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, says the BBC, and "23 deaths are now being investigated". The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.

The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said 514 people who are thought to have been in contact with infected people were now being monitored.

Since the outbreak began, there has been a total of 45 cases: 14 confirmed, 21 probable and 10 suspected. Previous reports of the disease had all been in remote areas where Ebola might spread more slowly.

The UN agency is also partnering with nongovernmental organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières, to ensure that health facilities are ready to treat patients in isolation wards. But "urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do". It is an hour's plane ride from Kinshasa or a four- to seven-day trip by river barge.

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

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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"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. The ministry said no new health professionals had been contaminated.

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. Tens of millions of people live along the river, and the capitals of Congo, Central African Republic, and the Republic of Congo lie along it and its tributaries. The trial involved 5,837 people receiving the vaccination using an innovative delivery strategy called "ring vaccination".

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified.

Humans contract the virus from infected animals, typically fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys. Teams are also setting up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro, with 20 beds each.

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.

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

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