World agencies, along with neighbouring countries, have increased their response to the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the death toll rises. Congo's latest Ebola outbreak has spread to a city of more than one million people, a worrying shift as the deadly virus spreads more easily in densely populated areas. Two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones that include Mbandaka, the capital of northwestern Equateur province, the first such case to reach a city. Mbandaka is about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week, said Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga. Officials are concerned about the spread of the disease as the initial outbreak occurred in a largely rural area with little access to urban areas.
As of May 18th, 25 deaths have been confirmed out of 45 reported cases. Laboratory tests confirmed 14 of the cases, A World Health Organisation emergency panel met to determine if the outbreak was “a public health event of international concern”, a move that would increase global action. According to AFP, the WHO said, “"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban centre located on major national and international river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighbouring countries." "The WHO has therefore revised the assessment of public health risk to very high at the national level and high at the regional level," the WHO report concluded.
At a global level the WHO believes the risk to still be low, but as more information becomes available the assessment will be revised.
The UN’s migration agency is assisting the DRC’s health ministry in sending disease tracking experts and medical experts to monitor travellers at the country’s 16 border posts.
The operation was enabled by funding of $75,000 from Japan and $100,000 of internal funds, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
An experimental vaccine arrived in the DRC on Wednesday and has been approved for use among the population as a preventative measure. However, there is still no proven effective medication to treat those suffering from the disease. Treatment depends on ‘supportive care’ to fight individual symptoms as they manifest.