27 Dead in Virus Outbreak: Warning Sent Out After Sick Patients Escape Quarantine
An alert was sent out in the Democratic Republic of Congo after two dying Ebola patients were taken to a prayer meeting with about 50 other people, possibly exposing them all to the deadly virus.
They were taken by family members from a hospital in the city of Mbandaka, Reuters reported, citing Dr. Jean-Clement Cabrol, emergency medical coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
So far, in the outbreak, 27 people have died and more than 50 have been infected.
Both patients were vomiting and infectious, dying just hours later, Cabrol said.
“The escape was organized by the families, with six motorcycles as the patients were very ill and couldn’t walk,” Cabrol was quoted as saying by the news agency.
He added: “They were taken to a prayer room with 50 people to pray. They were found at two in the morning, one of them dead and one was dying. So that’s 50-60 contacts right there. The patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting.”
The patients escaped the hospital’s isolation ward on Monday, May 21. A third patient who left the ward survived.
Health officials are now trying to trace the drivers and others who came into contact with the Ebola patients, Dr. Peter Salama, head of emergency response at the World Health Organization, told Reuters.
“From the moment that they escaped, the (health) ministry, WHO and partners have been following very closely every contact,” he added.
Salama noted that the fight to contain the disease has reached a critical point. He noted that Mbandaka, a city of more than 1 million, is located on the Congo River, which leads into the capital Kinshasa, which has a population of 10 million.
“All it takes is one sick person to travel down the Congo River and we can have outbreaks seeded in many different locations … that can happen at any moment, it’s very hard to predict,” he said. “It is going to be at least weeks and more likely months before we get this outbreak fully under control,” Salama said.
“The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we’re going to be able to keep it under controls,” Salama said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
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