The latest outbreak of Ebola has spread to a large city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the country’s health minister.
It has reached Mbandaka, the capital of the country’s Equateur province.
Health minister Oly Ilunga said two suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones – including in Mbandaka, a city of about 1.2 million people.
The city lies about 93 miles from Bikoro, where the current outbreak was announced last week.
He said one sample proved positive for the Ebola virus, meaning there have now been three confirmed cases in three different health zones.
Mr Ilunga said Congo now is entering an urban phase of the outbreak, meaning that the disease could spread more rapidly and further afield.
He said scientists are working to identify the number of people who may have had contact with the virus, on top of the 500 already identified.
Congo has reported 23 deaths among the 44 suspected, probable and confirmed cases.
It is the ninth time Ebola has been recorded in the DRC.
Last year, eight people were infected and four people died after an outbreak of the disease, according to the Centres for Disease Control.
Ebola virus disease, formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
The World Health Organisation has sent 5,400 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo, with thousands more to be shipped in the coming days.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director-general, said: “This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola. WHO and our partners are taking decisive action to stop further spread of the virus.”