Urban Ebola Case in Congo Has WHO Holding Crisis Meeting

The recent outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo now includes 45 cases and 25 deaths, with a case being reported in the city of Mbandaka, the BBC reports.

The continued spread of the outbreak, especially in the large urban hub of Mbandaka, has officials at the World Health Organization meeting Friday to discuss whether or not to declare a "public health emergency of international concern."

Peter Salama, a senior official at WHO, told the BBC that the Mbandaka case "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."

Mbandaka is a city of a million people situated on the busy Congo River transport route. Just downstream is the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, with a population of 10 million.

"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.

The most deadly Ebola outbreak in history occurred in 2014-2016 in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and grew in size once it reached major cites there.

According to WHO, of the 45 Ebola cases reported, 14 are confirmed, 21 are probable and 10 are suspected. All occurred in Congo's Equateur province, where Mbandaka is the provincial capital.

Health agencies are rushing in to help. On Wednesday, more than 4,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine -- something not available in the Wet African outbreak -- arrived in Kinshasa. More doses are expected soon, the BBC said.

The vaccine is being prioritized for people thought to have been in contact with those suspected of already being infected, Salama said.

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