Officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have confirmed the death of the first Ebola Patient in Goma, the largest city, east of the country.
The Guardian UK reported how the patient who was a priest became infected at Butembo town, one of the epicentres of the outbreak, before taking a bus to Goma, a city with over a million population.
He was being driven from Goma to a clinic in Butembo on Monday to receive treatment when he died, said North Kivu province’s governor, Carly Nzanzu, according to the report.
The pastor became ill last week in Butembo but decided to travel to Goma on Sunday where the 46-year-old held regular services in seven churches, during which he laid his hands on worshippers, including people who were ill, the country’s health ministry said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) described the incident as a “potential game-changer” with a potential of spreading the deadly disease in the region and its environs.
Already, Rwandan authorities have started taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of the disease. Gisenyi, a town in Rwanda, shares a common border with Goma.
Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s health minister, said 2,600 health workers had been vaccinated.
“This Ebola epidemic has now reached close to Rwanda. There is a need to be more vigilant and to avoid unnecessary visits to Goma,” she said.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently the country worst hit by widespread Ebola outbreak in recent times.
Ebola is a communicable disease. It can be spread through human to human contact, through travels, migrations and the movement of animals.
Since the outbreak began in the DRC last August, it has continued to spread, infecting over 2500 persons of which more than half have died.
Most of the outbreaks were recorded around the city of Beni close to the Ugandan border which has a population of around 800,000, until the latest case in Goma.
Challenges to Interventions
Efforts to reduce the spread of the disease and free the DRC from the scourge of the Ebola epidemic are largely slowed down by activities of armed groups in the hardest hit towns.
PREMIUM TIMES reported last November how the UN Stabilisation Mission in DRC, MONUSCO, said it was taking an active approach to quell armed group activity in the North Kivu area, and protect Beni from conflict.
MONUSCO said it assisted in the Ebola response by providing logistical support, office facilities, transportation, communication and keeping staff safe from security threats.
After decades of conflict, Ebola response teams have faced misinformation and mistrust from some local populations who are reluctant to allow vaccination programmes or follow rules for contact tracing and safe burials.
The current epidemic is the country’s 10th and most widespread.
Last month, the NCDC, the Nigerian agency in charge of emergency response to outbreaks, assured citizens that chances of the Ebola virus being imported from Uganda or DRC are low as there are no direct routes from those countries to Nigeria.
The agency however said it has conducted and concluded preliminary risk assessment on the overall risk of the importation of the disease into the country.
Nigeria was first hit with Ebola outbreak in July 2014 after Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian, touched down in the Lagos international airport with a fully manifested Ebola Virus disease.
Nigeria’s health ministry then said a Nigerian nurse in the Lagos hospital where Mr. sawyer was treated also died of the disease.
Every other person who had primary contact with Mr. Sawyer was confirmed positive with the virus, resulting in secondary spread.
The outbreak was however later contained through a rapid response by the federal and Lagos State governments.