Government officials are doctors are on high alert after two Ebola-infected patients left a hospital this week against strict recommendations, fueling fears that the virus might have spread even further.
The incident happened in the latest Ebola breeding ground in the city of Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to officials with Doctors Without Borders. Health officials have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to control the spread of the virus and keep an accurate tracing map on those people who have may have encountered those with the disease. This aggressive tracing is done in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly disease, thus it is especially dangerous when infected individuals move beyond their containment.
Both patients passed away within a day of leaving the facility. Each patient was spirited away with the help of family members during the night last Monday. One patient did eventually return to the treatment center but died later that evening, while the other passed away at home. Officials from Doctors Without Borders were dispatched to the victim’s home so they could safely dispose of the body in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading.
Doctors are especially worried because, with a population of over 1 million people, Mbandaka is extremely susceptible to a fast-moving Ebola outbreak. In addition, because of its location on the banks of the Congo River, the city has direct access to nine bordering countries and millions of people in population-dense areas. Until officials can properly trace the people that the deceased victims came into contact with, they are focusing their efforts on the relatives who cared for them.
Earlier this week, officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 28 people had died as a result of the disease. However, that number was later revised downward to 22. The WHO says that they have a total of 58 confirmed cases of the disease. Although there are five subtypes of Ebola, only three have been confirmed in Africa over time. Unfortunately for those doctors and health officials in a race against the clock, the most deadly of the three, the Zaire strain, is the one responsible for the current outbreak with a mortality rate of 60 to 90 percent. Ebola first presents with a headache and fever, with hemorrhaging being a later symptom. The current outbreak in the Congo began on May 8.