Congo-Kinshasa: As Congo Faces First Urban Ebola Outbreak, Experimental Vaccine Deployed

Photo: ONU
An Ebola vaccination team (file photo).

London — It's the first outbreak in an urban area of the central African country.

As more than 20 people have been killed by a new outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the deadly fever has entered a "new phase", its health minister said.

The U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to consider the international risks posed by the first urban Ebola outbreak in the vast central African country and has deployed experimental vaccines.

Here are some key facts and figures about Ebola:

* The world's worst epidemic of Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever, began in Guinea in December 2013 and swept through Liberia and Sierra Leone.

* It killed more than 11,300 people and infected 28,600, almost in the three worst affected nations - more cases and more deaths than in all previous outbreaks combined.

* Ebola cases were also recorded in seven other countries, including the United States, Spain and Nigeria, on a much smaller scale.

* The epidemic ended on June 9, 2016 when Liberia was declared free of Ebola.

* Ebola causes fever, flu-like pains, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea.

* On average, around 50 percent of humans infected in an outbreak die, though in past outbreaks the fatality rate has varied from 25 to 90 percent.

* The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals such as fruit bats and monkeys and spreads among humans through contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.

* It is the first time the deadly virus has been detected in a Congolese city, Mbandaka, which has a population of about 1 million people and is a major thoroughfare for trade and transport, making it harder to ring-fence.

* The first batch of more than 4,000 Ebola vaccines was sent by the WHO to Kinshasa on Wednesday, with vaccinations due to start early next week - the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago.

* The vaccine, developed by Merck and Co Inc, has not yet been licensed, but proved effective during limited trials in 2016 in West Africa.

* With Congo's unreliable electricity, storage of the vaccines will be tricky, as they require temperatures between minus 60 Celsius (-76°F) and minus 80 C (-112°F).

Reporting by James Honigsberger, Editing by Katy Migiro.

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