In the week since we first noted the new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the number of cases has risen by 50%, and The World Health Organization has now said it is preparing for “the worst case scenario.”
The WHO has tallied 32 suspected or confirmed cases in the northwestern area of Bikoro, on the shores of Lake Tumbathe near the border with the Republic of Congo, including 18 deaths, between April 4 and May 9.
The outbreak, declared by the DRC health ministry on Tuesday, is the DRC’s ninth known outbreak of Ebola since 1976,when the deadly viral disease was first identified in then-Zaire by a Belgian-led team.
Scientists are greatly concerned that this outbreak in the remote Bikoro region will travel 175 miles to the city of Mbandaka – the capital of Equateur province and home to around 1.2 million residents.
What’s worrisome is that the most recent WHO update says that there are two probable cases at Wangata – which is very close to Mbandaka.
Peter Salma, head of emergency response at the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week: “If we see a town of that size infected with Ebola, then we are going to have a major urban outbreak,” adding “We are very concerned, and we are planning for all scenarios, including the worst-case scenario.”
The WHO is planning to send up to 40 specialists to the affected area over the next week or so, while Salma adds that the UN hopes to have a mobile lab up and running this weekend, similar to the one set up by the WHO.
The WHO and World Food Programme are also working to set up an ‘air-bridge’ to help bring in supplies, however, only helicopters can be used until an airfield is cleared to allow larger planes to land, Mr Salama added.
The health body has released £738,000 ($1m) from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to support response activities for the next three months. –Daily Mail