Ebola in Congo

Experts have said the escalation was 'unexpected' and should serve as a reminder to the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency. Pictured, an Ebola treatment centre, Beni
Ebola has spread to the Congolese city of Goma, which has a population of more than a million people, as the virus continues to devastate the region.

The victim is a pastor who had arrived in the city by bus after visiting Butembo, a town around 200miles (320km) north in the centre of the outbreak.

He had been preaching at a church where he would have touched worshippers 'including the sick', the country's health ministry said on Sunday.

Authorities have urged people to remain calm after the government said the chances of the virus spreading were 'low'.

But tensions are high and two health workers were murdered in their homes over the weekend.

Experts have said the escalation was 'unexpected' and should serve as a reminder to the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency.

In this, the second worst outbreak in history, 1,665 people have died from Ebola since August last year.

Goma Congo Ebola outbreak

The Congolese city Goma is around 180 miles (300km) south of Butembo, with a population of more than one million people. Cases continue to soar in Beni, Butembo, Katwa, Mabalako and Mandima, where the outbreak is centered.
The preacher's symptoms first started on Tuesday after he left Butembo by bus on the Friday and arrived in Goma on Sunday, the DRC ministry said.

The other passengers, 18 in all, and the driver will be vaccinated against Ebola today, said the ministry. It is not clear where the patient is being held.

'Given that the patient was quickly identified, as well as all the passengers on the bus from Butembo, the risk of the disease spreading in the city of Goma is low', the ministry said.

Dr Mark Eccleston-Turner, an expert on Global Health Law at Keele University said: 'The identification of a case in Goma is a deeply disappointing, if not totally unexpected development in the Ebola response in the DRC.

'As a large city and transport and trade hub the virus taking hold in Goma could have devastating consequences for the response to Ebola in the DRC.'

Health experts have long feared that Ebola could make its way to Goma, which is the capital of the North Kivu province in eastern Congo.

It borders neighbouring Rwanda, which has been preparing for possible cases since the outbreak began nearly a year ago.

Health workers in Goma were vaccinated as early as December when the outbreak first hit Butembo, around 180 miles (300km) north.

The two towns are separated by poor roads under the threat of armed groups, which have hampered response teams across the Congo.

At the weekend, two Ebola awareness campaigners were murdered in their homes in the North Kivu province.

The pair were killed after months of threats, the health ministry said, but it is not yet clear who was involved.

Locals view foreign health care providers with deep suspicion and do not trust Western healthcare volunteers or the government.
Ebola Congo

The travellers on the bus were identified quickly and will be vaccinated, health ministers said. Pictured, emergency team of first responders in Goma
Ebola Congo

Health experts have long feared that Ebola could make its way to Goma, which is the capital of North Kivu province. Pictured, an ambulance medically equipped to take the Ebola patient to a treatment facility
The UN is convening a 'high-level event' in Geneva today to discuss response and preparedness for the Ebola outbreak.

It will be attended by government ministers from the DRC and Britain, senior officials of the World Bank, the WHO, and other UN agencies.

Dr Eccleston-Turner said: 'This is further evidence that Ebola is in need of a coordinated international response.

'It is imperative that the issue of the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern is revisited by the WHO.'

Last month, the WHO said the outbreak did not qualify as an international threat, even after an infected family travelled to neighbouring Uganda.

Comment: The World Health Organization doesn't necessarily have the best interests of the public as a priority. Listen to SOTT's Objective: Health discussion on the WHO: Objective:Health #20 - The World Health Organization - WHO The Hell Are These Guys?

It was the third time the WHO came under pressure to declare the outbreak a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern), a formal declaration which has only been made four times in history.
Ebola graph DRC

More than 2,000 cases and 1,400 deaths of Ebola have been recorded in the DRC since the outbreak was declared in August last year
Dr Eccleston-Turner said: 'A PHEIC is an extraordinary event with public health risk to other countries, and requires a coordinated international response: the exact sort of event which was intended to be declared a health emergency.'

Nearly 700 people with Ebola have been cured, and total of 160,239 people have been vaccinated against the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever.

The UN's World Health Organization had been hopeful it would be able to contain the latest epidemic, thanks in part to a new vaccine.

The disease spreads when humans touch the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.

The outbreak is the 10th in DR Congo in 40 years, putting all countries in the region on alert.

It is the second deadliest on record globally, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.