Tue, Jul 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

DR Congo urges calm after Ebola case in Goma

WORKERS SLAIN:The Goma patient is a pastor who had gone to Butembo, while two Ebola awareness workers were killed in their homes over the weekend

AFP, KINSHASA

The authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) have appealed for calm after the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the main eastern city of Goma.

The city is the biggest where a case of the killer disease has been confirmed since an outbreak started in eastern DR Congo in August last year, but the government said chances of it spreading were “low.”

The patient is a pastor who had been preaching at a church in another town, Butembo, where he would have touched worshipers, “including the sick,” the Congolese Ministry of Health said on Sunday.

His symptoms first appeared on Tuesday last week.

The preacher left for Goma from Butembo, one of the towns most affected by the outbreak, by bus on Friday, and arrived two days later where “the results of the laboratory test confirmed that he was positive for Ebola,” the ministry said.

“Given that the patient was quickly identified, as well as all the passengers on the bus from Butembo, the risk of the disease spreading in the city of Goma is low,” it added.

The other passengers, 18 in all, and the driver were to be vaccinated yesterday against Ebola, it said, and urged the population of one of Africa’s largest countries to “keep calm.”

However, two Ebola awareness campaigners were murdered in their homes over the weekend in North Kivu Province, where locals view foreign healthcare providers with deep suspicion.

The pair were killed after months of threats, the ministry said.

The UN had called a “high-level event” for yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss response and preparedness for the Ebola outbreak.

It was to be attended by government ministers from the DR Congo and Britain, and senior officials of the World Bank, the WHO and other UN agencies.

Health workers in Goma, which has a population of more than 1 million and is the capital of North Kivu Province, were vaccinated as early as December last year when the outbreak first hit Butembo, about 300km north.

The two towns are separated by poor roads under the threat of armed groups.

The latest Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo has killed 1,655 people, according to a ministry bulletin on Saturday.

Nearly 700 were cured, and a total of 160,239 people have been vaccinated against the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever, it added.

The outbreak is the 10th in the DR Congo in 40 years, putting all countries in the region on alert. It is the second-deadliest on record globally, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014 to 2016 that killed more than 11,300 people.

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