The World Health Organisation has declared the current deadly outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to be a “public health emergency of international concern”. The outbreak is the deadliest one to have ever hit the African country and the second-largest epidemic on record after killing 1,673 people in just one year. Health chiefs today sounded the alarm after the first case of the infectious virus was reported in Goma, home to one million people, on Sunday. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this could be a game-changing moment as Ebola could now spread among the city’s population and across the border to neighbouring Rwanda.
So far there have been 2,500 cases of infection in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while 12 new cases are being reported every day.
Neighbouring country Uganda has already upped its threat level in recent days.
The move came after a Congolese woman who crossed over the border between the two countries to sell fish vomited in a Ugandan market before dying of the highly-contagious virus.
A possible 19 fishmongers may have had contact with the woman while 590 people may need to be vaccinated, the Ugandan Health Ministry told the WHO.
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Will Congo outbreak spread to the US?
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said there should be no restrictions on travel or trade, or screening of passengers at ports or airports outside the immediate region.
Right now there is no evidence to suggest the outbreak will spread to faraway international countries such as the US.
The UK International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, who recently visited two DRC regions infected by Ebola, said greater funding and expertise will be needed to tackle the issue.
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Mr Stewart said: “There is an Ebola outbreak now in Congo that has already crossed the border to Uganda.
“We had an outbreak in Goma (DRC) a city of two million people on Sunday.
“If we do not get this under control this, which is already the second biggest Ebola outbreak in history, will cause devastating problems for the region.
“We must invest much more in the World Health Organisation (WHO), in developing the public health services in the neighbouring countries and above all step up to the challenge and be serious as a nation about this deadly disease.”
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What is Ebola?
Ebola is a serious virus causing internal bleeding, kidney and liver damage, vomiting, diarrhoea and potential death.
It is fatal in about 50 percent of cases, according to WHO.
The biggest outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 killed 11,323 people after spreading from Guinea into Sierra Leone and Liberia.