Two Ebola patients escaped from a hospital in the Congo and were taken by their families to pray in a church with 50 people, Medecins Sans Frontieres said today.
The patients left the hospital holding them in quarantine in Congo city of Mbandaka, a World Health Organisation spokesperson said, as it warned that the fight to stop the outbreak in the country is at a critical point.
Two of the patients were found dead on Tuesday, while a third was taken back to the hospital and is now under observation.
Henri Gray, the head of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) mission in the city said; ‘This is a hospital. It’s not a prison. We can’t lock everything.’
The report came as the World Health Organization warned that the fight to stop Democratic Republic of Congo’s ninth confirmed outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever had reached a critical point.
‘We´re on the epidemiological knife edge of this response,’ WHO’s emergency response chief Peter Salama told ministers and diplomats in Geneva.
The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we´re going to be able to keep it under control’.
Salama said the outbreak has “three or four separate epicenters,” making it more challenging to contain.
Each of the separate chains of virus transmission has the potential to expand if not controlled, he added.
“It’s really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak. It’s documenting how people are getting infected and therefore managing to control the transmission.
Health officials are particularly concerned by the disease’s presence in Mbandaka, a crowded trading hub upstream from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, a city of some 10 million people. The river also runs along the border with the Republic of Congo.
WHO’s director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti told a World Health Assembly session that the organisation is accelerating its efforts in nine countries neighboring Congo to try to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
The other countries are Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and, to a lesser extent, Uganda. WHO and governments are working to roll out ‘pre-position’ supplies that might be needed if the virus spreads, Moeti said.
The outbreak, which was first spotted near the town of Bikoro, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the city, is believed to have killed at least 27 people so far.
Health workers have drawn up a list of 628 people who have had contact with known cases who will need to be vaccinated.
‘It´s really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak,’ Salama said.
The disease was first discovered in Congo in the 1970s. It is spread through direct contact with body fluids from an infected person, who suffers severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea.
More than 11,300 people died in an Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2013 and 2016.
Source: Daily Mail UK