A second person has died of Ebola in the eastern DR Congo city of Goma, a major transport hub, the country’s point man for the epidemic told reporters on Wednesday.
“A patient who was confirmed with Ebola in Goma has died. Every measure has been taken to block the chain of transmission,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, in charge of co-ordinating the fight against the year-old outbreak.
The first death from Ebola in Goma, reported on July 16, sparked a wave of concern.
A day later, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”, a move designed to step up the global response.
According to figures published Wednesday, 1,803 people have died since the haemorrhagic virus was recorded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on August 1 last year.
Health experts fear outbreaks in major cities, where population density and high mobility make it far harder to isolate patients and trace contacts compared to the countryside.
The first fatality has been described as an evangelical preacher who had travelled from Goma to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by the outbreak.
While there, he preached at seven churches and regularly touched worshippers, including the sick, before taking the bus back to Goma.
Aruna Abedi, in charge of co-ordinating the Ebola response in North Kivu, the worst-hit province, said the second patient had arrived at a treatment centre “11 days after falling ill.”
“His was really a hopeless case, because the illness was already at an advanced stage and he died overnight Tuesday.”
Abedi urged the public to respond swiftly to symptoms of Ebola and “not hide suspect cases.”
“The treatment centre is not a dying room — you have to bring the patient in early.”
Goma is a border city located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda.
It has a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu province and an airport with flights to Kinshasa, Uganda’s Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
The city abuts the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, and there is a high number of daily border crossings, involving workers and people who have jobs or homes on the other side of the frontier.