The Atlantic

The First Urban Case of Ebola in the Congo Is a ‘Game Changer’

The stakes are higher now that the virus has reached a city of 1.2 million people.
Source: Kenny-Katombe Butunka / Reuters

Updated on May 17 at 3:54 p.m. ET

The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has thus far been confined to remote rural areas, but one case has now been confirmed in Mbandaka, a city of almost 1.2 million people. “We are moving to a new phase of the epidemic, and we are putting all the means in place to respond to it in a quick and effective way,” said Oly Ilunga, the DRC’s minister of health, on Wednesday evening.

The outbreak initially hit the northwestern town of Bikoro and a nearby village called Ikoko-Impenge that is 30 kilometers away. Both are small and hard to reach, especially in the current rainy season, when roads become pockmarked with gullies and potholes. Mbandaka’s larger population, and its location on the Congo River, provides new opportunities for. “The challenge just got much, much tougher.”  

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