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A boy has his temperature checked in Goma  as health officials take steps to halt the spread of the epidemic A boy has his temperature checked in Goma as health officials take steps to halt the spread of the epidemic  (AFP or licensors)

DRC Ebola epidemic spreads to populous border city

A second person has died after contracting Ebola in Goma, a major transit hub in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Rwandan border. On Thursday, the man’s 1-year old daughter was also diagnosed with the disease.

By Linda Bordoni

The latest development in the worst Ebola crisis since the 2014-16 outbreak in West Africa has turned fears into reality.

World Health Organization officials have feared Ebola's arrival in Goma for months. That’s because the city is home to a highly mobile population of more than 1 million, making the  risk of  spreading the disease extremely high.

The WHO declared the outbreak a global health emergency in mid June after the first Ebola death in Goma.

That patient was a pastor who had left South Kivu to evangelize in Butembo, at the center of the current Ebola outbreak.

This week’s victim is a miner who had been working in the Ituri province, north of Goma. He developed Ebola symptoms after returning home earlier this month.

Tracking contacts

The painstaking work of finding, tracking and vaccinating people who had contact with the man - and the contacts of those contacts - has begun.

This outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people, nearly a third of them children. It is now rated as the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

Meanwhile, Rwanda has confirmed its border closure, and Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing visas to people from Congo; a controversial move just before the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the Mecca this month.

Global Health Emergency

The declaration of a global health emergency  has brought a surge of millions of dollars in new pledges by international donors, but many health workers say a new approach is needed to combat misunderstandings, fear and stigma.

A number of health workers responding to the outbreak have been attacked, even killed, in a region where rebel groups are active and the population lives in terror of outsiders.

This outbreak is second only to the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that left more than 11,300 people dead.

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01 August 2019, 16:29