A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in the Congolese city of Goma, a major transit hub along the Rwandan border that’s home to more than two million people.
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It’s the second confirmed case to be identified in Goma since the last outbreak of the deadly virus erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo one year ago.
Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the new head of the country’s Ebola response team, told reporters on Tuesday night that the latest patient is a man from a mining area in northeastern Ituri province. He arrived in Goma, the bustling capital of North Kivu province, on July 13 and began showing symptoms of the virus on July 22.
The man has been isolated at an Ebola treatment center in Goma. Meanwhile, high-risk contacts have been identified and will be vaccinated Wednesday, according to Muyembe, a veteran virologist and Ebola researcher who was recently appointed by the Congolese president to lead a technical committee to combat the ongoing outbreak.
So far there’s no indication that the new case is linked to the previous one in Goma earlier this month, according to the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Sad news coming from Goma,” Ghebreyesus said via Twitter on Wednesday morning. “Rapid response teams have swung into action to prevent further transmission.”
Two weeks ago, the WHO declared the current Ebola outbreak a global health emergency — the fifth in history — just three days after the first confirmed case was registered in Goma. The declaration often mobilizes more resources and commands worldwide attention.
The risk of national and regional spread is high, while the risk of it spreading beyond the region remains low. The WHO’s director-general said the spread of the virus in Goma, which has a highly mobile population and is located on the nation’s eastern border with Rwanda, “is an event we have anticipated.”
“This is why we have been doing intensive preparedness work in Goma so that any new case is identified and responded to immediately,” Ghebreyesus tweeted.
That preparation has included vaccinating some 5,000 health workers against Ebola in Goma, providing the city’s health centers with proper training and equipment, reinforcing screenings for the virus at border crossings and implementing round-the-clock monitoring at the Goma International Airport, according to Ghebreyesus.
This is the world’s second-largest, second-deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which causes an often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever.
The virus is transmitted through contact with blood or secretions from an infected person, either directly or through contaminated surfaces, needles or medical equipment. A patient is not contagious until he or she starts showing signs of the disease. The virus is not airborne, which means a person cannot get the disease simply by breathing the same air as an infected patient.
At least 2,698 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri since Aug. 1, 2018. Among those cases, some 2,604 have tested positive for Ebola virus disease. There have been 1,811 deaths so far, most of which were from confirmed Ebola cases, according to the latest data from the WHO and the country’s health ministry.