The country’s Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga stated late on Wednesday that the nation’s Ebola outbreak had now entered a “new phase”.
The latest outbreak is believed to have killed 23people so far in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is deploying vaccines to the country, previously expressed its concerns of the disease reaching the city of Mbandaka.
They stated that this would make the outbreak harder to tackle.
The Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines had arrived in the DRC’s capital on Kinshasa.
The ministry’s spokeswoman Jessica Llunga said 4,000 doses are being sent to the remote north-west region of the country where two cases of Ebola have been confirmed, along with 20 probable and 20 suspected cases.
The WHO stated an additional 4,000 does will be sent to the country in the coming days, with more available if required.
Journalist Debora Patta commented on the outbreak, stating: “The most important thing is to stop the spread of the disease, and to that end, what they have to do is track down everybody; people who have contracted Ebola or even died from Ebola.”
The outbreak of the hemorrhagic disease was first reported on May 8 in the rural region of Bikoro, and figures reveal that 42 individuals have been infected.
But there are growing fears that Ebola will start to spread out of control after reaching the densely populated city of Mbandaka.
Jose Barahona, Oxfam Director in the DRC, commented on the threat, saying: “If the number increases in Bikoro it’s bad but it’s not a disaster but if these three cases in Mbandaka become 10 or 12 then we have an urban epidemic.”
He also commented on the threat of the virus spreading across the country, as Mdandaka is located on the river Congo, which is a central means of travel and trade in the DRC.
He said: “Boats move up and down the river, people and goods travel.
“One of the risks is that someone with the virus could easily access one of the boats and start moving up and down.”
The country’s capital Kinshasa is also located on the river.
Henry Gray, the DRC’s Médecins Sans Frontières emergency coordinator said: “It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city.
“We are working closely with the ministry of health and the other organisations in the field to implement a coordinated, tailored and rapid response to stop the spread of Ebola.”
The WHO is using a ‘ring vaccination’ method, which involves vaccinating infected individuals, people who may have contacted these individuals, and contacts of these contacts, along with health care workers.
Ms Llunga said health care workers will be among the first individuals to receive the vaccinations.
Ms Patta commented on the vaccination method and procedure, stating: “It can’t cure Ebola, but what it can do is stop the spread of the disease.
“In 2014, you remember that the World Health Organisation and other agencies were criticised for being ‘staggeringly slow’ to respond.
“This time, they’ve wasted no time.”
She noted the response to the outbreak by the local government and by international agencies was much quicker than in 2014, when more than 11,300 people died in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
The vaccine was tested in Guinea in 2015, and appeared to be effective against Ebola, including the against the Zaire strain located in the DRC.
The DRC has witnessed nine outbreaks of Ebola since 1976.
More to follow…