Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak now has 14 confirmed cases as health officials rush to contain the often deadly virus in a city of more than 1 million.
The World Health Organization was holding an experts’ meeting Friday to determine whether the epidemic warrants being declared a global health emergency. It now calls the risk to the public in Congo “very high” and the regional risk “high.” The Republic of Congo and Central African Republic are nearby.
Vast, impoverished Congo has contained several past Ebola outbreaks but the spread of the hemorrhagic fever to an urban area poses a major challenge. The city of Mbandaka, which has one confirmed Ebola case, is an hour’s flight from the capital, Kinshasa, and is on the Congo River, a busy travel corridor.
“The outbreak is potentially a public health emergency because many of the criteria have been met,” said Dr. David Heymann, a former WHO director who has led numerous responses to Ebola.