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Congo's Ebola outbreak in 'new phase' after urban case

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Ebola vaccine in the arm

Sent by the World Health Organization, the vaccine is still not licensed but proved effective in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Adding to concerns is the city's location on the banks of the Congo River, a major thoroughfare for trade and transport into the capital, Kinshasa.

Apart from this, the virus outbreak occurred in an area with a traffic of about 7,000 persons a week by different means, which represents a significant risk of further spread, the health official stressed.

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 Congo Republic is on the other side of the river.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", he said, adding he is anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.

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Authorities said they were tracing all air, river, and road routes in and out of the city to find the source of the virus.

He said scientists are working to identify the number of people who may have had contact with the virus, on top of the 500 already identified.

The announcement came just as thousands of doses of the experimental Ebola vaccine arrived in the country, with vaccinations expected to commence this coming weekend.

He said the lists of those exposed to suspected Ebola cases would receive, for the first time in Congo, a new component of response to an Ebola outbreak: vaccinations.

Forty-four cases have been reported in the outbreak so far, including 3 confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected, according to the WHO's tally.

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