Ebola patients left a treatment center after their families demanded to take them to church, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Two of the patients later died, while the third returned to the center in the city of Mbandaka.
This presents a new challenge for health workers battling to stop the spread of the contagious disease, says the BBC’s Anne Soy in DR Congo.
Ebola has no known cure.
The patients’ relatives came to the centre, which is run by medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and demanded to take them for prayers, WHO officer Eugéne Kabambi told the BBC.
They were reportedly taken away on motorbikes and a search was ordered by the police.
One patient was found dead at home and his body was returned to the hospital for a safe burial. The other was sent back to hospital on 22 May and died that evening, according to MSF.
Efforts were made by staff to convince the patients not to leave and continue treatment, MSF says.
“We are on the epidemiological knife-edge,” Peter Salama, head of emergency responses at the WHO, said at a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Geneva.
“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,” he added.
Health workers began an immunisation campaign to halt the spread of the Ebola virus on 21 May.
Limited trials of the experimental vaccine was rolled out during the epidemic in West Africa in 2014-16, which killed more than 11,300 people.
This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo.
“WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the area.
“Controlling a virus once it has reached a large urban area is particularly challenging.
Aid agencies are battling to persuade sceptical residents about the severity of an outbreak that has killed 27 since April.
Some people are refusing medical care and turning to preachers and prayers to chase away the threat.
Pastors at churches have been encouraging people “pray away” the Ebola instead of receiving vaccines.
Ebola is also believed to be a “curse on those who ate stolen meat”.
Health worker Julie Lomball said: “Some sick people believe that the Ebola epidemic comes from sorcery.
“They refuse to be treated and prefer to pray.”
Officials have said on the radio said on the radio “this disease is incurable. It’s because it’s about witchcraft”.https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/world-news/704682/ebola-congo-outbreak-epidemic-patients-quarantines-vaccine-mbandaka-virus-spread