Ebola vaccine arrives in DR Congo amid outbreak

Ebola outbreak spreads to urban area as deaths mount

African Union (AU) sent today a health team to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to monitor the situation and the country " s required level of support to stop Ebola outbreak.

The city is a major transportation hub with routes to the capital Kinshasa.

Congolese authorities declared the outbreak in the northwest region near Congo-Brazzaville on May 8, and three have died from the disease, according to an official toll. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently visited the outbreak's starting point in Bikoro town are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation.

It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious. Sent by the World Health Organization, the vaccine is still not licensed but proved effective in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. "Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases".

Ilunga said Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, with higher spread potential.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency's director-general, said: "This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola".

The latest outbreak is believed to have killed 23people so far in the country.

It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in Congo since the disease made its first-known appearance near its northern Ebola river in the 1970s. The vaccine will be reserved for people suspected of coming into contact with the disease, as well as health workers.

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