Congo's health ministry says doses of Ebola vaccine arrive

Ebola outbreak spreads to urban area as deaths mount

"Together with our partners we are taking decisive action to stop the outbreak", tweeted Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of World Health Organization.

Congo's health minister says Ebola has spread to a city, the capital of Equateur province, a worrying shift in the new outbreak in the northwest of the country.

The first urban case to be announced threatens to change that.

The World Health Organisation, which is deploying vaccines in the country, had expressed concern about the disease reaching the north-western city, which would make the outbreak, already believed to have killed 23 people, far harder to tackle.

An expert committee will decide in its emergency meeting on Friday whether to declare a "public health emergency of global concern", which would trigger more worldwide involvement, mobilizing research and resources, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

Ebola is most feared for the internal and external bleeding it can cause in victims owing to damage done to blood vessels.

Health officials hope the vaccine which will come into use for the first time since it was developed two years ago can contain the latest outbreak.

As of 15 May, a total of 44 Ebola virus disease cases have been reported: 3 confirmed, 20 probable, and 21 suspected.

The vaccine, from US -based pharmaceutical firm Merck, is unlicensed but has been shown to be highly effective against Ebola. He said another 4,000-vaccine batch was expected soon.

Health workers have recorded confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in three health zones of Congo's Equateur province, and have identified 432 people who may have had contact with the disease.

The WHO said it had sent 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities, a possible indication of how big it expects the outbreak to be. After analysis, one of the two samples was positive, "said Congolese Minister of Health Orly Ilunga in a statement released late Wednesday night".

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

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