KINSHASA (Reuters) – The agencies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations have begun deploying emergency teams over the weekend to prevent the spread of an Ebola epidemic that infects more than 30 people.
The latest suspicion was reported Friday in Equateur in the northwestern province, which Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga visited on Saturday with officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"We must join our efforts quickly and abide by the government's plan to successfully combat this new epidemic," Kalenga said in a joint statement after her visit to the state capital.
Congo first reported on Tuesday the outbreak of the village of Ikoko Impenge near the town of Bikoro with 32 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease, including 1
Officials try to prevent the virus from getting out of hand, as happened in West Africa in 2014/16, when Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The WHO has been criticized for botching its response to this epidemic and has therefore moved quickly.
The Congo had previously suffered eight epidemics of Ebola, but due to their geographical location and poor transport links, they have fizzled out rather than expanded to become a national crisis.
But the proximity of this epidemic to the Congo, an important transportation route and lifeline to both the Congo capital, Kinshasa, and the neighboring capital of the Republic of the Congo, Brazzaville, causes the virus to break out into a larger area.
The most dreaded disease that can cause bleeding from internal and external haemorrhage caused by blood vessels has already spread to three different sites, which in the province of Equateur cover 60 km (60 km) or more.
According to official reports, there is an immediate risk in the provincial capital of Mbandaka with about 1 million inhabitants, but the Congo's nine neighbors have also been alerted if Ebola crosses a border, especially in the Republic of Congo or the Central African Republic.
"WHO is strengthening its presence and is positioning a dozen epidemiologists to focus on the axes of Mbandaka, Bikoro and Iboko to investigate alerts," said Congo representative Allarangar Yokouide.
The WHO said Friday it hopes to use an experimental Ebola vaccine to fight an outbreak.
Reporting by Amedee Mwarabu; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Catherine Evans