26 Dead, 46 Sick in Major Virus Outbreak. Here Is the Cause

By Jack Phillips

At least 26 people have died and dozens more have been sickened from an Ebola virus outbreak in the Congo, according to reports.

The Associated Press reported the latest death toll, saying that there are a total of 46 reported cases of the hemorrhagic fever. They include 21 confirmed cases of Ebola, 21 probable cases, and four suspected cases.

“The vaccination campaign begins tomorrow, Monday, in Mbandaka, capital of the province. It will target, first, the health staff, the contacts of the sick and the contacts of the contacts,” Minister of Health Oly Ilunga told AP on Sunday.

Vaccines will be administered in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million where at least four confirmed cases of Ebola were reported. There have been concerns that Ebola could spread via the Congo River from Mbandaka to the capital city, Kinshasa, which has a population of around 10 million.

Jessica Ilunga, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said 4,000 doses of vaccine were shipped on Saturday to Mbandaka, Reuters reported.

“I don’t know how to protect myself against Ebola. God alone can protect me from this illness,” said Lusya Mbangu, who was selling fish in Mbandaka Sunday.

“Even if it’s not happening here yet, I have to reduce contact with people. May God protect us in any case,” Grace Ekofo, who is a 23-year-old student in Kinshasa, told AP.

“We pray that this epidemic does not take place here,” Jean Mopono, 53, was quoted by AP as saying.

According to Congolese health ministry data released late on Saturday, there have been four cases of Ebola confirmed through testing in Mbandaka’s Wangata neighborhood and another two suspected cases.

One patient has died there, the figures showed.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders has established an isolation ward at a hospital in Wangata, where health personnel could be seen being sprayed with disinfectant before entering the facility on Sunday.

“The building does not conform to international regulations but we have reorganized it … to make sure there is no contamination,” Dr Hilaire Mazibu told Reuters.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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