KINSHASA, Congo — The 1-year-old daughter and the wife of the man who died of Ebola in Congo’s city of Goma this week have tested positive for the disease, health officials confirmed Thursday, while Rwanda briefly closed its border with Congo over the virus outbreak that now enters its second year.
It is the first transmission of Ebola inside Goma, a city of more than 2 million people on the Rwandan border, a scenario that health experts have long feared. The painstaking work of finding, tracking and vaccinating people who had contact with the man — and the contacts of those contacts — has begun.
The man died on Wednesday after spending several days at home with his large family while showing symptoms. Congo’s presidency said the entire family was at “high risk” and in quarantine. The Ebola coordinator for North Kivu province, Dr. Aruna Abedi, confirmed the wife’s case to The Associated Press hours after that of the child.
“We’re seeing the first active transmission chain in Goma and expect more to come,” the International Rescue Committee’s Ebola response director, Andre Heller, warned in a statement.
This outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people, nearly a third of them children. It is now the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, and last month the World Health Organization declared it a rare global emergency. — (AP)
Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe confirmed the border closure, a day after WHO officials praised African nations for keeping their borders open. Last week Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas to people from Congo while citing the Ebola outbreak, shortly before the annual hajj pilgrimage there this month.
Congo’s presidency condemned Rwanda’s decision, and Congolese at the busy border expressed frustration. “I can’t understand why they don’t just test us instead of closing these borders,” said Angel Murhula, who works in Rwanda.
Several hours later Congo’s presidency said the border had reopened. A Rwanda health ministry statement called the events a “traffic slowdown” as surveillance for Ebola was reinforced. The ministry advised against unnecessary travel to the Goma area.
WHO has recommended against travel restrictions amid the outbreak but says the risk of regional spread is “very high.” Any border closure is likely to push people to avoid formal immigration posts. In June, three people who crossed on an unguarded footpath into Uganda died there before their family members were taken back to Congo for treatment — (AP)