The Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed Thursday that a case of Ebola had been recorded in a northwest city, and a doctor there said several hundred people may have been in contact with people infected by the disease.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga said "two suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever" had been reported in the Wangata area of Mbandaka, a city about 150 kilometres from the epicentre of the outbreak in the rural Equateur province.
"One of the two samples tested positive for the Ebola virus," he said in a statement.
The case was reported earlier by the UN's World Health Organization (WHO), which expressed concern over the spread of the virus to a city -- a development that typically makes it far tougher to fight a contagious disease.
"We estimate that more than 300 people have been in contact, directly or indirectly, with people contaminated by the Ebola virus in Mbandaka," a doctor at the city's general hospital told AFP.
The outbreak -- the ninth in the DRC since Ebola was first identified as a disease in 1976 -- is centred in remote Bikoro, near the border with the Republic of Congo.
Out of 44 confirmed, probable or suspected cases, 23 have died, according to WHO figures.
The mood in Mbandaka, a city on the Congo River, was panicky, local people said.
"I am looking for a boat to leave," said Constantine Boketshu, who is married to a member of the armed forces.
"The authorities have let the disease come here. We run the risk of being wiped out in the (military) camp -- the hygiene is bad."
Market hawker Adolphine Dikela said: "Even in normal times, the hospitals are short of medicines. How are we going to survive if the disease spreads here?"