Congo Is Staring at a Widening Ebola Epidemic

An Ebola epidemic in eastern DR Congo sharply widened Wednesday, the eve of the first anniversary of the outbreak, with one death and another diagnosis reported and the quarantining of 15 people in a previously unaffected province.

A total of 1,803 lives have been lost in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to figures released Wednesday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's pointman on the crisis, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said a second person had died of Ebola in Goma, a densely-populated city on the border with Rwanda that has transport links to many parts of East Africa.

"A patient who was confirmed with Ebola in Goma has died. Every measure has been taken to block the chain of transmission" - Jean-Jacques Muyembe, Congo’s pointman on Ebola, to AFP

Also Read: Second Ebola Case in Goma, Congo Confirmed Say Officials

Later on Wednesday Aruna Abedi, the chief Ebola coordinator in the North Kivu province -- which has borne the brunt of the outbreak since it began on August 1 last year -- said a third person had tested positive for the disease.

Abedi said that vaccination had started at the affected health centre.

"Medical staff and those who had contact with the patient, and those who had contact with them, have been prioritised," he told AFP.

An Ebola response official said the third confirmed case was the one-year-old daughter of the second Goma patient, a father of 10 who had died at the same centre earlier in the week.

"The girl had already been showing signs of the disease," the official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

North Kivu's capital Goma is a lakeside city of more than two million people that has an airport with flights to the capital Kinshasa, Uganda's Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, as well as a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu province.

Also Read: DR Congo’s Health Minister Resigns Over Conflicting Ebola Approach

Health experts fear outbreaks in major cities, where population density and high mobility make it far harder to isolate patients and trace contacts compared to the countryside.

Abedi earlier said the second fatality had arrived at a treatment centre "11 days after falling ill".

"His was really a hopeless case, because the illness was already at an advanced stage and he died overnight Tuesday." Abedi urged the public to respond swiftly to symptoms of Ebola and "not hide suspect cases".

"The treatment centre is not a dying room -- you have to bring the patient in early," he said.

The first death in Goma, reported on July 16, sparked a wave of concern.

In that case, a man described as an evangelical preacher had travelled from Goma to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak. While there, he preached at seven churches and regularly touched worshippers, including the sick, before returning to Goma. The day after his death was announced, the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a move designed to step up the global response.

The epidemic in DR Congo is the second deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.

(In an arrangement with AFP)

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. Only the title and image have been edited by FIT.)

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