Ebola Cases Rise in Congo Border City Amid Fears of Outbreak Spreading

Kenny Tucker
August 2, 2019

A Rwandan official has said his country has closed its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo because of the deadly Ebola outbreak.

Goma is a major transport hub that shares the border with the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, which has a population of more than 85,000.

A Catholic diocese in Congo has boosted measures to protect its congregations against Ebola, after the latest outbreak was declared an worldwide emergency by the World Health Organization.

The new cases have stoked fears the virus could take root in the city of more than 1 million people. "Investigations are still underway around this. case", Dr Aaron Aruna Abedi, who coordinates the Ebola response for DR Congo's health ministry, told Reuters on the phone.

The border was closed after a third case of Ebola was detected in the border city of Goma, which has a population of more than 2 million people and has an worldwide airport.

Most recent reports indicate there are now 2,713 cases of Ebola during this outbreak, including 148 healthcare workers, and 1,813 deaths.

The presidency's office said in a statement that it regretted a "unilateral decision" by the Rwandan side that restricted the movement of its citizens at the border.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said Thursday on Twitter that armed conflict was hampering health officials' attempts to manage the outbreak, "increas [ing] the risk of disease spread".

Rwanda has reopened its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo after closing it for several hours, a reaction to three Ebola cases, two of them fatal, in a border city in the past month.

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"The border was never closed and it is not closed", Diane Gashumba said as she sat next to the state minister of foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe.

Before Goma, the epidemic had been largely limited to rural areas in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. It is not immediately clear whether the person is a family member of the man who died on Wednesday.

"This allows physicians and health workers to be able to test those who have died to see if they were exposed to Ebola to ensure a proper and respectful burial", he said.

- The number of cases reached 1,000 in March and has more than doubled in the four months since then. Since that time, there have also been confirmed cases in neighbouring Uganda.

Rwanda's ministry of health denied the border was ever closed, and by Thursday afternoon people were crossing between the cities again.

It is transmitted through contact with infected body fluids.

February 24: Assailants attack an Ebola treatment centre in Katwa, killing one caretaker and leading aid group Doctors Without Borders within days to suspend operations there and in Butembo.

Ebola caused global alarm in 2014 when the worst outbreak began in West Africa, killing over 11,300 people and infecting an estimated 28,600 as it swept through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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