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An ebola case confirmed in Goma An ebola case confirmed in Goma  (ANSA)

DRC Ebola case in Goma potential game-changer

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities are appealing for calm after a person died of Ebola in the city of Goma. It’s the first recorded case of the disease in the key urban hub in a nearly year-old epidemic, and it is widely feared it may lead to an increase in infections or spread to new locations.

By Linda Bordoni

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, the governor of North Kivu in eastern DRC confirmed the death of the patient who was described as a pastor who had been on a trip to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak.

There, the health ministry said, he preached at seven churches and had contact with worshippers, "including the sick".

Response teams have reportedly so far identified 60 people who had been in contact with the preacher, 30 of whom have now been vaccinated.

But why is this particular case so crucial?

It’s because Goma is a border city located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda. It is a huge crossroads with a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu and an airport with flights to Kinshasa, the Ugandan capital Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Potential game-changer

Thus, the case has been described as  a "potential game-changer" by the UN’s World Health Organization that says  it will reconvene a key panel to see whether the outbreak requires a heightened global response, as neighbouring Rwanda steps up  border monitoring and has urged its citizens to avoid "unnecessary" travel to the eastern DRC.

According to the latest health ministry figures,  almost 1,700 people have died from the haemorrhagic virus since August 1 last year, when the disease broke out in North Kivu and spread to Ituri province.

Nearly 700 people have been cured, and more than 160,000 been vaccinated.

But a toxic mix of armed militias and a deep-rooted mistrust of health officials by communities have hampered efforts to halt the virus.

This latest epidemic is the second deadliest on record globally, after the outbreak that struck West Africa between 2014 and 2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

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16 July 2019, 16:14