One-year-old daughter of Congo man who died of Ebola has virus
The one-year-old daughter of the man who died of Ebola in Congo’s major city of Goma this week has the disease, the health ministry said yesterday, while Rwanda closed its border with Congo over the virus outbreak that now enters its second year.
The man died on Wednesday after spending several days at home with his large family while showing symptoms. This is the first transmission of Ebola inside Goma, a city of more than two million people on the Rwandan border, a scenario that health experts have long feared. The painstaking work of finding, tracking, and vaccinating people who had contact with the man – and the contacts of those contacts – has begun.
“We’re seeing the first active transmission chain in Goma and expect more to come,” the International Rescue Committee’s Ebola response director, André Heller, warned in a statement.
This outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people, nearly a third of them children. It is now the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, and last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a rare global emergency.
Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, confirmed the border closure, a day after WHO officials praised African nations for keeping their borders open. Last week, Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas to people from Congo while citing the Ebola outbreak, shortly before the annual hajj pilgrimage there this month.
Congo’s presidency swiftly condemned Rwanda’s decision, and local Congolese at the busy border expressed frustration. “I can’t understand why they don’t just test us instead of closing these borders,” said Angel Murhula, who works in Rwanda.
WHO has recommended against travel restrictions amid the outbreak but says the risk of regional spread is “very high”. Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan have long begun vaccinating health workers. In June, three people died in Uganda before their family members were taken back to Congo for treatment and Ugandan officials declared the country free of the disease.
The death on Wednesday in Goma “in such a dense population centre underscores the very real risk of further disease transmission, perhaps beyond the country’s borders, and the very urgent need” for more global support, United Nations agencies said in a joint statement marking a year of the outbreak.