Published: Tue, July 16, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

DR Congo urges calm after Ebola case in key city

DR Congo urges calm after Ebola case in key city

The Congolese Health Ministry said in a press release on Sunday that the first case of Ebola has been detected in the city of Goma more than 350 km (220 miles) away from where a pandemic originated a year ago. On his arrival in Goma on Sunday, tests confirmed he had the Ebola virus.

It added that his trip began on Friday after "the first symptoms appeared on July 9 (Tuesday)".

The ministry said the bus driver and the 18 other passengers will be vaccinated on Monday.

The latest Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo has so far killed 1 655 people and 694 have been cured, according to a health ministry bulletin on Saturday.

Since Aug. 8, more than 161,400 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the outbreak zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, using an experimental vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck.

But efforts to roll back Ebola have been hampered by insecurity in a region plagued by militia groups, who have attacked treatment centres.

The border remains open but goods normally purchased in DRC by Rwandan people can be sourced locally until the situation is contained, she said, adding that no Ebola case has been reported in Rwanda.

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The case coincided with a regional Health Ministry statement that two Ebola workers were killed over the weekend by unidentified attackers near Mukulia in North Kivu province - the latest in a series of incidents in Congo's restive east hindering containment.

After the case was confirmed the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said he would reconvene the United Nations agency's expert committee to assess whether or not the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

"We hope it does not.", said Mike Ryan, World Health Organization Emergencies Director.

The virus has already killed more than 1600 people in eastern Congo as it has spread in areas hard for health teams to access. The workers had been receiving threats for months, the ministry said.

Ebola spreads when humans touch the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.

Dr Tedros said: "The identification of the case in Goma could potentially be a game-changer in this epidemic". Goma is a city of 2 million people, near the border with Rwanda and is a gateway to the region and the world. It's also one of the worst outbreaks ever, second only to the 2014-2016 epidemic in multiple West African countries that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is the 10th outbreak documented in Congo since 1976, when the disease was identified near the Ebola River, which gives it its name.

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