Goma — A one-year-old girl became the third patient to test positive for Ebola in the densely populated DR Congo city of Goma, local officials said on Wednesday, adding that she was the daughter of the second patient who died earlier in the week.
“I have been informed of another confirmed Ebola case at the Goma Ebola treatment centre,” said Aruna Abedi, the chief Ebola coordinator in North Kivu, the worst-hit province since the outbreak began on August 1 last year.
“Vaccination has started at the Kiziba health centre to cut the chain of contamination. Medical staff and those who had contact with the patient, and those who had contact with them, have been prioritised,” Abedi told AFP.
The latest diagnosis is just the latest sign that the outbreak is sharply widening, and came just hours after the announcement that the second patient had died overnight on Tuesday.
The World Health Organisation warned on Monday that the first-detected Ebola case in Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Goma could be a game changer in the scale of the outbreak.
“The third confirmed case is the one-year-old girl of the father of 10 who died today at the Kiziba centre. The girl had already been showing signs of the disease,” an Ebola response official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The first death from Ebola in Goma – a city of more than two million people on the border with Rwanda with transport links to many parts of East Africa – sparked a wave of concern when it was reported on July 16.
A day later, the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern”, a move designed to step up the global response. Also on Wednesday, it was announced that 15 people had been quarantined in the neighbouring South Kivu province, which had previously skirted the epidemic.
A total of 1 803 lives have been lost in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to figures released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Rwanda reopened its frontier with DR Congo on Thursday after closing it for eight hours following a new case of Ebola in the Congolese border city of Goma, Kinshasa said.
“Traffic between Goma and (the neighbouring Rwandan city) of Gisenyi resumed on Thursday afternoon after being closed in the morning without explanation,” a statement from the Congolese presidency said.
“The border has been reopened and people can move in both directions,” the statement said.
Fears that Ebola could spread into neighbouring countries have mounted since mid-July,when the disease claimed its first fatality in Goma, a city of two million people that lies adjacent to Gisenyi, a city of more than 85 000.
Close ties have developed between the two cities. Many people have jobs on the other side of the border while others have homes or put their children in schools in the neighbouring city.
Earlier on Thursday, President Felix Tshisekedi’s office had said Rwanda had made a “unilateral decision” to close the border after a third case of Ebola had been detected in Goma.
It said the decision had been taken despite recommendations by the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) that borders should be kept open in such circumstances to help control and transparency.
In AFP reporter in Goma and a resident in Gisenyi each confirmed in mid-morning that the frontier had been closed, while a Rwandan government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “it is closed”, without giving further details.
But the Rwandan health ministry later said the border had never been closed