Ebola outbreak in the Congo spreads to major city, health officials confirm

Congo's Ebola risk 'very high' as confirmed virus cases rise

These would be given as a priority to people in Mbandaka who had been in contact with those suspected of carrying the Ebola virus before people in any other affected area, Mr Salama said.

Isolation zones have been set up in Mbandaka's main hospital as well as Bikoro hospital, with more Ebola treatment centers being set up in Mbandaka and Bikoro.

But the UN's health agency confirmed that an Ebola case has been recorded in the city of Mbandaka, which lies roughly 150 kilometres from the Bikoro area where the outbreak originated. It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city.

AFP factfile on how the Ebola virus attacks.

"This is a major development in the outbreak", said Peter Salama, the WHO's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response.

The disease causes the liver and kidneys to shut down before the victim starts to bleed both internally and externally.

A ministry statement on Thursday said that the total number of Ebola cases is now 45, including 10 suspected, 21 probable and 14 confirmed.

The health ministry said it had received 5,400 doses of Ebola vaccine Wednesday morning.

The World Health Organization's lead response official called Thursday's new confirmed case "a game changer". Previous reports of the disease had all been in remote areas where Ebola might spread more slowly.

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It said there had been one new death in Bikoro, where the Ebola outbreak was announced last week and where the first death took place.

Ebola is lethal and highly contagious, which makes it hard to contain - especially in urban environments where people are mobile and come into more contact with others.

The fresh outbreak, publicly declared on May 8 with 23 deaths so far, had previously been confined to a very remote, rural area in Equateur Province in the northwest of the country.

Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million, is in a busy travel corridor in Congo's northwest Equateur province and is upstream from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million. World Health Organization has sent 4,000 doses to Congo and said it will dispatch thousands more in the coming days as needed.

The WHO is sending 7,540 doses of an experimental vaccine to try to stop the outbreak in its tracks, and 4,300 doses have already arrived in Kinshasa.

The agency said it was deploying around 30 experts to Mbandaka "to conduct surveillance in the city". The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.

The first human outbreaks of Ebola occurred in 1976, one in the north of what is now Congo and in the region that is now South Sudan.

An outbreak between 2014 and 2016 in west Africa was the worst ever, and killed more than 11,000.

The latest cases in DRC come less than a year after its last confirmed Ebola scare in May 2017, during which eight people were infected, four of whom died. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.