KINSHASA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is witnessing the spread of Ebola to major cities, according to the international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors without Borders).
The MSF said on Dec. 3 that the city of Butembo, in the northeastern DRC with a population of nearly one million, is among the latest affected urban locations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday said 35 new cases were reported in the DRC as of Tuesday, while two new cases were reported in Butembo, eight in Katwa and two in Kalunguta, both in the vicinity of the city.
"We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area. We now know that this outbreak will last and that we must increase our efforts to get it under control," said John Johnson, MSF project coordinator in Butembo.
As of Friday, data released by the WHO showed that the total number of Ebola cases in the DRC has reached 489, with 441 confirmed Ebola cases and 232 deaths.
The WHO expressed confidence that "the outbreak can be contained and brought to an end" with proven public health measures, as well as available tools like vaccines and therapeutics.
The DRC declared a new outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in North Kivu Province in August, the tenth outbreak in 40 years and the country's largest ever.
The dire situation in the DRC has led to cautionary measures on the part of its neighboring countries like Uganda, while the two countries have been coordinating medical efforts to jointly fight the hemorrhagic fever.
The Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, general discomfort or malaise and in many cases internal and external bleeding.
Mortality rates of Ebola fever, according to the WHO, are extremely high, with the human case fatality rate ranging from 50 percent to 89 percent, depending on the viral sub-type.