Ebola patients flee hospital in DR Congo, says MSF

The health inspection centre in front of a busy street in Mbandaka, where the launch of an experimental Ebola vaccine started, in north-western Democratic Republic of the Congo, on May 21, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MBANDAKA, DR CONGO (AFP) - Three people with Ebola fled a hospital in DR Congo, two of whom died after returning home, Doctors without Borders (MSF) said on Wednesday (May 23).

"Between Sunday May 20 and Tuesday May 22, three patients voluntarily left the isolation unit at Wangata hospital" in Mbandaka, Henry Gray, the agency's emergency intervention coordinator in that city, said in a statement.

"The first patient, who was on the brink of being cured, left the hospital on Sunday evening," he said.

"The two others left the facility with their families on Monday night. One of them died at home, and his body was was returned to the health centre for a secure burial," Gray said.

"The second was taken back to the centre yesterday morning and died during the night."

The Democratic Republic of Congo announced on May 8 that there had been cases of the notorious haemorrhagic fever in a remote northwestern district called Bikoro.

Last Thursday (May 17), the first case was reported in a city - in Mbandaka, a transport hub located on the Congo River.

Twenty-seven people have died out of 58 cases, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) toll.

Lacking a licensed drug to treat the contagious disease, doctors use tried-and-trusted measures to contain its spread by quarantining patients and tracing those who have been in contact with them.

MSF, which supports the hospital in Wangata, said it was important to understand that "forced hospitalisation" would not work.

"The commitment of the patient" to being quarantined "is fundamental," it said, highlighting the need for public awareness on how to halt the outbreak.

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