World Health Organization raises risk assessment of Congo's Ebola outbreak

12 health workers don protective clothing as they prepare to attend to suspected Ebola patients at Bikoro Hospital in Bikoro Congo

WHO says Ebola outbreak has spread to DR Congo city

The reassessment came after the first confirmed case in Mbandaka, a city of around 1.5 million on the banks of the Congo River in the northwest of the country.

"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.

The risk to countries in the region is now determined as "high", but the global risk remains "low".

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

It said the new death has epidemiologic ties to another case.

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.

"While cases of Ebola Virus Disease have not yet been detected in South Sudan, the risk is high because of movement of people from DR Congo into South Sudan", he said.

The city is about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last week.

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The city of about one million people is a transport hub on the River Congo, prompting fears that the virus could now spread further, threatening the capital Kinshasa and surrounding countries.

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

The UN health agency is deploying around 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka and is working with the DRC's Ministry of Health advising communities on prevention, treatment and reporting of new cases.

But WHO advised against any restriction of travel and trade to the Democratic Republic of the Congo based on the now available information.

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

Meanwhile, the public relations officer in the same ministry, Doreen Motshegwa, said their health officials are on high alert and have put measures in place to ward off the spread of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. On average, about 50% of people who become ill with Ebola die.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified. Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.

A total of 44 cases of Ebola have been reported in Congo in this outbreak: three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to WHO.

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