The fresh outbreak, publicly declared on May 8 with 23 deaths so far, had previously been reported in a rural part of Equateur Province in the vast country's northwest.
One new case of Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Mbandaka, a city with a population of about 1.2 million, World Health Organization confirmed on Thursday, raising fears that despite a rapid response by authorities, the outbreak has not been contained.
"If we see a town of that size infected with Ebola, then we are going to have a major urban outbreak", the WHO's head of emergency response, Peter Salama, told reporters last week. Who officials now set the contacts of the sick EBOLA person with healthy people to prevent the spread of the disease.
The reassessment came after the first confirmed case in Mbandaka, a city of around 1.5 million.
The city of about one million people is a transport hub on the Congo River, prompting fears that the virus could now spread further, threatening the capital Kinshasa and surrounding countries.
In Mbandaka and Bikoro, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by national health authorities and are being monitored, according to MSF.
Mbandaka had three suspected cases in addition to the confirmed case.
"This puts a whole different lens on this outbreak and gives us increased urgency to move very quickly into Mbandaka to stop this new first sign of transmission", he said.
The UN health agency is deploying around 30 experts to conduct surveillance in Mbandaka and is working with the DRC's Ministry of Health advising communities on prevention, treatment and reporting of new cases.
Moreover, MSF and its research arm Epicentre are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the implementation of the Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP as an additional measure to control the outbreak. "We now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola", he said on Tuesday after visiting DRC at the weekend to assess the response. Two years after the worst Ebola epidemic in history finally subsided, the virus is surging again.
Results on the cases are expected within 24 hours, Ilunga said. It can spread rapidly through contact with small amounts of bodily fluid, and its early flu-like symptoms are not always obvious.
Ebola is an infectious illness that causes internal bleeding and often proves fatal.
Ebola is much harder to contain in urban areas, so this development compounds the risk of contagion and elevates the outbreak to the most serious since an Ebola epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
He said the disease could have been taken there by people who attended the funeral of an Ebola victim in Bikoro, the south of Mbandaka, before travelling to the city.