First Ebola case in Congo city of Goma detected

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – The first case of Ebola in the eastern Congo city of Goma was discovered on Sunday, officials said, raising concerns the virus could spread quicker in a densely populated area close to the Rwandan border.

Goma, a lakeside city of 1 million people, is more than 350 km (220 miles) south of where the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record was first detected a year ago. But the haemorrhagic fever has gradually spread south, infecting nearly 2,500 people and killing over 1,600.

It was not yet clear how much contact the patient had with other people in Goma, or how long the individual was there, officials said. A spokeswoman for the health ministry said it was trying to track down details.

“It’s a case from Butembo,” 200 km (124 miles) north, said Richard Kitenge, the head of Goma’s Ebola response effort, who added the patient would be taken back to Butembo for treatment.

Goma has been preparing for the arrival of Ebola for a year, setting up hand-washing stations and making sure mototaxi drivers do not share helmets.

But in more rural areas, the virus has been hard to contain. Local mistrust of health officials and militia violence have hobbled containment efforts and caused the number of new cases to spike.

Ebola causes diarrhea, vomiting and hemorrhagic fever and can be spread through bodily fluids. An epidemic between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa.

Reporting by Fiston Mahamba; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Peter Cooney

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