New Ebola cases prompt fears virus is spreading

REUTERSEbola has spread to the city of Mbandaka

REUTERSEbola has spread to the city of Mbandaka

"What we're saying though is that urban Ebola is very different phenomenon to rural Ebola because we know that people in urban areas can have far more contacts so that means that urban Ebola can result in an exponential increase in cases in a way that rural Ebola struggles to do".

In this photo taken Saturday, May 12, health workers don protective clothing as they prepare to attend to suspected Ebola patients at Bikoro Hospital in Bikoro, Congo.

The outbreak previously appeared to be confined to the Ikoko Impenge area, near the town of Bikoro, in the central African nation's Equateur Province.

The disease has spread from a rural area of the country's Equateur Province where it was first reported last week to the city of Mbandaka, which has a population of more than 1,000,000 and is on the banks of the Congo River which connects several countries. Laboratory tests on two samples from Wangata confirmed one specimen as positive for Ebola, while the other was negative.

The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, does not contain any live Ebola virus.

REUTERSCongolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa
REUTERSCongolese Health Ministry officials carry the first batch of experimental Ebola vaccines in Kinshasa

WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama had told reporters on Thursday that the risk assessment was being reviewed.

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

A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo in this outbreak: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO.

"Five thousand four hundred doses of vaccine arrived from Geneva this morning" said health ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga.

"The remote location of the outbreak hampers both the information about the outbreak and interventions to control it", said Cyrus Shahpar, director of epidemic prevention at Resolve to Save Lives, a New York-based organisation.

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Peter Salama, in charge of emergency response at the World Health Organization, said the spread to a city complicated the fight against Ebola, which depends on identifying and isolating suspected cases.

It spreads by direct contact with body fluids of an infected person or animal.

"Medical teams have been rushing to track down anyone thought to have had contact with infected people", says Time magazine, "while World Health Organization is shipping thousands of doses of an experimental vaccine".

The vaccine, from pharmaceutical firm Merck, is unlicensed but was effective in limited trials during the West Africa outbreak.

The UN agency has been working with the Ministry of Health and Médecins Sans Frontières to conduct the ring fence vaccinations across the affected areas - where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated.

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

Nine Ebola outbreaks have occurred in DRC since the virus was first identified in 1976.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and internal and external bleeding.

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