A second case of Ebola virus disease has been detected in the Goma city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, raising fears of the spread of the deadly disease.
The report of the new case is coming a few weeks after the first case was reported in the highly populated city of about two million people which shares a border with Rwanda.
DRC has been witnessing the outbreak of Ebola virus disease since August 2018. Over 1,700 people have died from the disease, most of whom were in the remote areas of the country, since the beginning of the outbreak.
Ebola is affecting two provinces of Congo – North Kivu and Ituri.
Until recently, the virus has been mostly contained to more remote areas, mostly around Beni and Butembo, to the north of Goma.
Unfortunately, the disease had been imported into Goma by a priest who died from the disease earlier this month.
The 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.
The transmission of the disease to Goma has raised an alert on the need to increase preparedness and surveillance, especially in the neighbouring countries because of the high mobility of the population in the city.
Goma is the capital of North Kivu and lies just across the border from the Rwandan city of Gisenyi.
It is a transportation hub with airport and ferries. This makes the latest report of the disease in the city a cause of concern as it will be harder to isolate patients and trace people who have been in contact with the patients.
There are also fears of the disease spreading to the neighbouring country, Rwanda, as it shares a border with Goma.
Although Rwanda is yet to confirm any case of Ebola, Rwandan authorities have started taking proactive steps to prevent the spread.
The Rwandan authorities have already set up treatment centres and are preparing 23 isolation centres in case of any infection
The confirmation of the second case has become a game-changer, endorsing the call for a global alert on the disease by the World Health Organisation.
With the ongoing situation in DRC, the WHO has raised the highest level of alarm declaring the disease as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) ”.
Situation in Goma
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, on his Twitter handle on Wednesday, said: “Sad news coming from Goma, #DRC – the second #Ebola case has been confirmed.
“The risk of national #Ebola spread is high. 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,” he said.
He said, “there is no indication at the moment that this person is linked to the first case identified in this city on 14 July.”
H, however,r said rapid response teams had swung into action to prevent further transmission.
Mr Ghebreyesus added that over 5,000 health workers have been vaccinated against Ebola in Goma.
“Health centres have been provided with training and equipment to improve infection prevention and control. Screenings at border crossings have been reinforced and 24 hours monitoring implemented at the airport,” he said.
DRC is currently experiencing its worst 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.
To forestall future outbreaks in other countries, WHO has called on all countries especially in Africa to strengthen their preparation and surveillance.
WHO while declaring the disease a global emergency warned that all hands need to be on deck.
Although there is a vaccine for the disease, 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 Nigerian health agency in charge of disease control said it has increased its surveillance and preparedness for the disease in the country.
The agency last month had said the chances of the Ebola virus being imported from Uganda or DRC are low as there are no direct routes from those countries to Nigeria.
But with the recent development in Goma, the government needs to intensify surveillance at all it borders.
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.
The Nigerian doctor and 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 a secondary spread.