Goma’s first Ebola case was detected in mid-July, prompting the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that the spread of the disease could accelerate. The epidemic has killed more than 1,700 people since it was declared almost a year ago, becoming the second-worst Ebola outbreak on record.
Amid the Ebola outbreak, health workers have vaccinated some 160,000 people [Olivia Acland/Reuters]
A second case of Ebola was confirmed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s largest city, Goma, increasing concern the virus is establishing a foothold in the densely populated area.
The Ebola outbreak was declared a “public health emergency” by the WHO on July 17.
The most recent person to be disgnosed with the disease started developing symptoms on July 22 after arriving from a mining area outside the city, a health official quoted the head of the DRC’s Ebola response team, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, as saying in a statement on Tuesday.
Health officials said the patient, a man, was not connected to the first case in Goma who was a pastor who became infected during a visit to the town of Butembo, one of the epicentres of the epidemic.
“The response teams continue to work to decontaminate the home of the case and the high-risk contacts of the case have been identified and will be vaccinated from tomorrow,” Muyembe said.
Goma had prepared for the arrival of Ebola for months by setting up hand-washing stations, making sure moto-taxi drivers didn’t share helmets, vaccinating 3,000 healthcare workers, and running an operational treatment centre since February.
Early this month, neighbouring Rwanda said it would step up border monitoring and urged its citizens to avoid “unnecessary” travel to the eastern DRC.
Three Ebola cases were confirmed in neighbouring Uganda a month ago, but no new cases have since been registered.
The WHO’s emergency declaration – the fifth in history – brought in a surge of millions of dollars in new pledges by international donors.
However, some health workers say besides resources a new approach is needed to combat misunderstandings in the community.
A toxic mix of active armed groups and deep-rooted mistrust of health officials among local communities has hampered efforts to halt the virus with nearly 2,500 cases registered so far, according to the DRC’s health ministry.
Unidentified attackers killed two Ebola health workers near Mukulia in North Kivu early this month, the latest in a string of assaults this year that have killed or injured dozens of responders.
Amid the unrest, healthcare workers have vaccinated some 160,000 people, especially front-line workers.
The vaccine, developed by pharma giant Merck, is experimental but is estimated to be 97.5 percent effective and, according to WHO, may protect a person for up to 12 months.
The world’s worst epidemic of Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever that can spread through bodily fluids, killed about 11,300 people in West Africa as it surged through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia from 2013 to 2016.