Congo Confirms 14 More Ebola Virus Cases

14 confirmed Ebola cases in Congo as emergency meeting held

Previous reports of the disease had all been in remote areas where Ebola might spread be more easily contained.

"One new case of Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Wangata, one of the three health zones of Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people in Equateur Province in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo", the UN's health agency said in a statement.

"The confirmed case in Mbandaka, a large urban center located on major national and global river, road and domestic air routes increases the risk of spread within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to neighboring countries", the statement said. Previously, infections and deaths had been limited to the rural Bikoro health zone, almost 150 kilometers away.

"All must be done to isolate the Ebola cases, especially since there has been a case in Mbandaka city", said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Christos Stylianides. Fourteen cases have been confirmed with laboratory tests.

A panel will decide on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", which would trigger a larger response.

The spread of the virus from rural areas into a city has raised fears it could quickly spread and become harder to control.

The discovery of a case in Mbandaka indicates the outbreak has entered a "new phase", the country's health minister, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said Wednesday.

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"WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus", Ghebreyesus added.

Salama also noted Mbandaka's proximity to neighboring countries, including Central African Republic and Republic of Congo.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement: "The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning".

This time, the race to encircle the contagion is underway: World Health Organization has deployed about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka, and Medecins Sans Frontieres opened treatment centres in the city's hospital and the small town of Bikoro, where the latest outbreak began.

It is the ninth time Ebola outbreak that has been recorded in the DRC, whose eastern Ebola river gave the deadly virus its name when it was discovered there in the 1970s, and the outbreak comes less than a year after one that killed eight people.

He said the disease could have been taken there by people who attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro, south of Mbandaka, before travelling to the city. It spreads between people through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who is infected with or has died from the virus.

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