World

Ebola Outbreak Returns To Africa: 42 Infected, 23 Killed In Congo

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
2418
| May 17 , 2018 , 15:53 IST

Nearly 2 years after the massive Ebola outbreak throughout West Africa which resulted in the death of 11,300 people across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the deadly illness of Ebola has returned to Africa with reports of 42 people being infected in DR Congo and 23 deaths as of Thursday.

According to reports, the Ebola outbreak has spread from the countryside into a city, which sparked fears that the disease may spread into an epidemic and become hard to control.  

Congo Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed that a case of Ebola had been reported from the city of Mbandaka, a city with a population of around 1 million people around 130 km away from where the first cases were reported earlier this month. Mbandaka is a major transportation hub with routes to the nation's capital Kinshasa, which has a population of 10 million people.  

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World Health Organization (WHO) Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama, quoted by BBC, said the spread to Mbandaka meant there was the potential for an "explosive increase" in cases.

"This is a major development in the outbreak. We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there," said Salama.

The WHO official added that due to Mbandaka's location on the Congo river, there was risk of Ebola spreading to surrounding countries such as Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic.

"This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission," Salama said.

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Although there is an unlicensed vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Merck which has shown to be effective in limited trials, it needs to be stored at temperatures between -60 and -80 C, which is difficult due to irregular electricity supply in the Congo.

Ebola is a viral illness with initial signs including flu-like symptoms such as fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and sore throat which make it difficult to identify at initial stages. Ebola progresses to more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and in some cases both internal and external bleeding which often results in death.

Ebola is spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid, either of other infected humans or infected animals.