Hospitals alert as Ebola fear grips Kinshasa

Health officials in Zaire's capital, Kinshasa, are keeping several patients under surveillance for fear they are infected with the deadly Ebola virus.

Yesterday a British missionary in Kinshasa, Elizabeth Allford, said the patients were in strict isolation and that techniques were being used to prevent the virus infecting staff. The patients were believed to have arrived in Kinshasa from Kikwit, 275 miles to the east, where the outbreak began.

Health authorities said there were two Ebola cases in Kinshasa. Abdou Moudi, representative in Zaire of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said two others were being sought so they could be tested. One was a riverboat captain treated in Kinshasa for bloody diarrhoea and then released. Hospital staff failed to test him for Ebola but later - after hearing reports of its symptoms - suspected he might have the virus. The other suspected case was a nurse in Kinshasa.

The WHO in Geneva, which has been keen to play down the threat, said that the death toll had jumped from 60 to 77.

"WHO experts expect a significant increase in cases during the next two to three weeks among people who are incubating the disease, after having been exposed to it during the care of relatives or neighbours with haemorrhagic fever," it said. "The team is also concerned by the fact that people do not want to go to hospital, knowing that the epidemic started there," it added in a statement. The Ebola virus kills within a week, by massive bleeding and is one of the most deadly viruses known. There is no cure or vaccine.

"Don't touch" posters have appeared in Kinshasa warning of the dangers of handling infected corpses, in a country where washing the dead is a traditional funeral rite.

The posters were part of a range of measures to protect the capital and its 5 million people, said Joachim Kreysler, relief health adviser to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "I think the epidemic is going on. We are still on the ascending wing of the epidemic." If the virus emerged in the capital it could pose problems, given the dilapidated state of hospitals. "It will be extremely difficult to control, given the size of the city."

Scientists and doctors spearheading the fight against the outbreak are confident that basic sanitary precautions, such as protective clothing for medical staff, will enable them to contain the virus.

In Kinshasa, the health ministry ordered foreign journalists and television crews who had visited Kikwit to report to a clinic for 28 days' quarantine.

"I want to point out this is not an arrest. They have to go to the clinic for the next 28 days," Lonyangel Bopenda, secretary-general at the ministry, told a news conference. Asked what Zaire would do if the journalists refused, he said the matter would be handed over to police.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Handyman

£16575 - £18785 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Dundee based butchers requ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat