In Summary
  • More than 1,800 people have died since the first cases of Ebola in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were reported on August 1.
  • 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 death in Goma, reported on July 16, sparked a wave of concern.

An epidemic of Ebola in eastern DR Congo sharply widened on Wednesday, the eve of the first anniversary of the outbreak, with the announcement of a death in a major city and the quarantining of 15 people in a province that had previously escaped the disease.

A total of 1,803 lives have been lost in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to figures released Wednesday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's pointman on the crisis, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said a second person had died of Ebola in Goma, a densely-populated city on the border with Rwanda that has transport links to many parts of East Africa.

"A patient who was confirmed with Ebola in Goma has died. Every measure has been taken to block the chain of transmission," Muyembe told AFP.

Goma is the capital of North Kivu province, which has borne the brunt of the outbreak that began on August 1 2018.

It is a lakeside city of more than two million people that has an airport with flights to the capital Kinshasa, Uganda's Entebbe and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, as well as a port that links to Bukavu and South Kivu province.

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.

Aruna Abedi, the chief Ebola coordinator in North Kivu, said the second fatality 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," he said.

Wave of concern

The first death in Goma, reported on July 16, sparked a wave of concern.

In that case, a man described as an evangelical preacher 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 returning to Goma.

The day after his announced death, 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.

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