THE Ebola outbreak in DR Congo has spread to a city, prompting fears of a worrying shift in the new outbreak in the north-west of the country.

The country’s health minister said the disease has now spread to the capital of the Equateur province.

Oly Ilunga said two suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in the Wangata health zones, which includes Mbandaka city, about 93 miles from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak began. He said one sample proved positive for the deadly Ebola virus, bringing the number of confirmed Ebola cases in three health zones to three.

Ilunga added that the country is now entering an urban phase of the outbreak, with higher spread potential. Epidemiologists are working to identify additional contacts to the 500 already identified. A total of 44 cases have now been reported, including 23 deaths, the World Health Organisation reported.

Among those are three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected cases.

“We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone,” Ilunga said. He added that he is worried because Mbandaka, a city of nearly 1.2 million people, is densely populated.

Ebola is spread by contact with the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms.