Home Health A second Ebola case in Goma—the first prompted an international emergency – Ars Technica

A second Ebola case in Goma—the first prompted an international emergency – Ars Technica

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Enlarge / A woman gets her temperature measured at an Ebola screening station as she enters Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 16, 2019 in Goma.

A second case of Ebola has been detected in the bustling border city of Goma, further stoking fears that the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s now year-long outbreak will continue to thrive and spread.

Goma, a city of around two million people, sits on the border with Rwanda and acts as a busy transportation hub, running an international airport and overseeing around 15,000 border crossings each day.

The first case of Ebola in Goma earlier this month quickly prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The organization says the risk of national and regional spread of the outbreak remains “very high.”

Late Tuesday, July 30, Congolese officials confirmed the second case in Goma. According to an Associated Press report out of Kinshasa, DRC, the case was in a man in his 40s who had arrived home in Goma on July 13 from a mining area of the DRC’s Ituri Province. The northeastern province is one hard hit by the current outbreak, which has largely stayed within Ituri and the neighboring North Kivu provinces. However, the man had reportedly visited an area of Ituri where no Ebola cases had been documented, making it unclear where exactly he was exposed to the deadly viral disease. He started showing symptoms in Goma on July 22 and was placed in isolation at an Ebola treatment center.

On Wednesday, officials announced that the man had died earlier in the morning.

Outbreak control

Ebola response coordinator Jean-Jacques Muyembe told reporters at the same time that responders were working quickly to disinfect his home and the health center he had visited. “There is no need to panic,” he added.

Likewise, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a string of tweets early Wednesday that “rapid response teams have swung into action to prevent further transmission.”

“The risk of national Ebola spread is high,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus went on. “The population in Goma, DRC is highly mobile, so this 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.”

So far, the current outbreak in the DRC has reached the second largest ever recorded, tallying nearly 2,700 cases and over 1,800 deaths since it was declared August 1, 2018. The outbreak also marks only the fifth time in history that the WHO has declared a PHEIC.

The declaration has brought in new pledges of funding and support for outbreak responses, which have been severely hampered by violent attacks and community distrust and misunderstanding. Though responders have been using the highly effective strategy of ring-immunization—using an experimental vaccine that has shown to be 97.5% effective—health workers have struggled to build trust with community members, who often die without seeking medical care.

In a press statement earlier this month, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) noted, “This high number of community deaths (reported at around 40%) is a strong indicator that the outbreak is certainly not under control.”

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