Ebola Panic across Africa as deadly disease spreads in Congo

Ebola has spread to three more health zones in Congo, sounding off alarm bells across the African continent.

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Health workers don protective equipment at Bikoro Hospital in northwest DR Congo -- the epicentre of the latest Ebola outbreak play The latest Ebola outbreak is spreading panic across the African continent (UNICEF/AFP)
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The rest of Africa is now in panic mode after Congo’s health minister, Oly Ilunga, announced that Ebola has spread to three more health zones--a worrying shift in the latest outbreak of the fatal disease.

On May 8, 2018, a new outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was declared by the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) government, after two samples tested positive for EVD in Bikoro, Equateur Province.

According to Ilunga, two suspected cases of the hemorrhagic fever have now been reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka city, which lies about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Bikoro, a rural area where the latest outbreak began.

Ilunga says Congo is now entering an urban phase of the outbreak, which translates to higher spread potential.

Doctors working to isolate contacts

Epidemiologists have been working round the clock to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified.

Congo has now reported 23 deaths among the 42 suspected, probable and confirmed cases, the AP reports.

It is Congo’s ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976, when the deadly viral disease was first identified in then Zaire by a Belgian-led team.

Ebola killed thousands in Africa two years ago

The worst Ebola epidemic in history ended in West Africa just two years ago after killing more than 11,300 people and infecting 28,600 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The spread of the highly contagious disease was halted in Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—in 2014.

Nigeria was hailed globally after the index patient arrived Lagos from Liberia and was restricted to the hospital in which he was first checked, until his death.

Increased screening at Nigerian airports

Nigeria’s immigration service said on Thursday that it has increased screening tests at airports and other entry points as a precautionary measure following the Ebola outbreak in Congo.

Similar measures helped Africa’s most populous country contain the virus during the West African epidemic that began in 2013.

Congo’s long experience of Ebola and its vast, remote geography mean outbreaks are often localised and relatively easy to isolate and snuff out.

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