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Two dying Ebola patients were spirited out of a Congo hospital by their relatives on motor-bikes, then taken to a prayer meeting with 50 other people, potentially exposing them all to the deadly virus, a senior aid worker said on Thursday.

"Key to our response is training community health workers to recognize the symptoms of the virus and refer potential cases for immediate medical care", he added.

This brought the total number of confirmed cases to 31, it said in a statement, out of 52 suspected cases. Each patient was spirited away with the help of family members during the night last Monday. The other was sent back to hospital and died that night, Kabambi said.

Health ministry sources told the Reuters news agency that two police officers were assigned to help track the two patients down.

Knowing who has been exposed to Ebola is also critical to the effectiveness of the new Ebola vaccine that has been deployed to Congo. Overall the death toll stands at 27.

"We're on the epidemiological knife edge of this response", WHO's head of emergency response, Chief Peter Salama told ministers and diplomats at United Nations body's annual assembly. "We are really just at the beginning. we are on the epidemiological knife-edge of this response.The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control".

Three patients escaped from quarantine in the city of Mbandaka in north western Democratic Republic of Congo.

An ongoing vaccination campaign was prioritising the inoculation of health workers, people who have had contact with those infected by the virus, and people who have had contact with the other contacts, a process known as ring vaccination.

At least 27 people have been killed by the virus since the first outbreak in early May
At least 27 people have been killed by the virus since the first outbreak in early MayEPA

In an interview posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization's deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said the hope is that roughly 1,000 people will be vaccinated over the next week. "It is documenting how people are getting infected and, therefore, managing control, the control of transmission".

Bogoch said in outbreaks like this one, people need to know that the teams on the ground are "really trying to help and that they're trying to help prevent the spread of this infection but also help individuals".

When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, some of the obstacles that impeded the medical response included lack of trust among communities dealing with outbreaks and religious practices - such as washing the body of the dead - that spread the disease, which is contagious through bodily fluids. The current outbreak in the Congo began on May 8. The Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which have land and river borders with the affected areas, are at particular risk as there is a constant movement of people between the countries.

World Health Organization is using a "ring vaccination" approach, targeting the contacts of people infected or suspected of infection and then the contacts of those people.

It would be impractical and counter-productive to ask security guards, who are not equipped with protective gear, to forcibly restrain patients, said Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston University Medical Center, who worked in an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone during its 2014-2016 outbreak.

Communicating safe behaviour to the population is also vital, Salama said, recalling that Ebola spreads through physical contact, including sexual contact, and that the virus can survive in the sperm of Ebola survivors for months and even years after they recover.

Those infected with Ebola can suffer from severe internal bleeding, fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

The U.K. on Wednesday pledged another 5 million pounds ($6.6 million) to help combat the outbreak.

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