First Ebola patient in DRC's Goma city dies

Henrietta Brewer
July 16, 2019

The worst Ebola outbreak, striking three West African countries between 2014-2016, claimed more than 11,300 lives.

Nearly 3,000 health workers in Goma have so far been vaccinated against the disease, says the WHO.

Speaking at a United Nations meeting in Geneva on the outbreak, Congo's minister of health, Dr. Oly Ilunga, called the spread of Ebola to Goma "a warning".

The pastor went for medical treatment in Goma on arrival, where health workers suspected he had the disease, which was confirmed by a lab test.

In response to the news, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), issued a tweet that confirmed the Goma case and said that the health workers in the city are prepared to deal with the situation. "In addition, at each checkpoint he wrote different names and surnames on the lists of travelers, probably indicating his desire to hide his identity and state of health", the ministry said. People can get EVD through direct contact with an infected animal, such as a bat, nonhuman primate, or a sick or dead person infected with Ebola virus, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

His appointment was announced a day after a top United Nations health official voiced criticism of France's financial contribution to the Ebola campaign.

The UN's World Health Organization will convene its emergency response board on Wednesday to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", a move that would step up the global response.

Health officials in the region are on high alert and vaccinations against the virus began in the area on Monday.

The patient was a priest who became infected during a visit to Butembo, north of Goma, where he interacted with Ebola patients, Congo's health ministry said in a statement.

More than 1,600 people have died from Ebola since August 1, when the haemorrhagic virus erupted in North Kivu and spread to neighbouring Ituri.

The pastor travelled 200 km (125 miles) to Goma by bus from Butembo, where he had been with people with Ebola. However, no one they came into contact with fell ill during the 21-day incubation period after the exposure.

Stewart said some donors at the packed United Nations meeting believed the response was well funded.

Several other countries in the region have also stepped up surveillance measures, including Burundi and Uganda, which share the land border directly with the DRC.

"I think this is genuinely an global concern and it would be great to see other countries stepping in", he said, noting that Francophone knowledge of the region would be essential in combating ongoing community trust problems.

Researchers have also seen its effectiveness for those who have already been exposed to the disease, lowering the fatality rate.

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

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