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Second person dies from Ebola in Congo city

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A second person has died of Ebola in Congo’s major city of Goma.

The death has raised fears the virus could spread beyond the country’s borders as the outbreak enters a second year.

Officials said the man may never have known he had Ebola and was contagious for days before the illness was confirmed. This has alarmed some in the city of more than 2 million people on the Rwandan border that has an international airport.

The death “in such a dense population centre underscores the very real risk of further disease transmission, perhaps beyond the country’s borders, and the very urgent need” for more global support, United Nations agencies said in a joint statement marking a year of the outbreak. More than 1,800 people have died – nearly a third of them children.

The man in his 40s was a miner returning home from an area of northeastern Ituri province where no Ebola cases in this outbreak have been recorded, World Health Organisation officials told reporters.

He was exposed to Ebola somewhere along the roughly 300-mile-long route from Komanda to Goma as he took motor taxis over a number of days through the densely populated region at the heart of the outbreak, WHO emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan said.

The man arrived in Goma on July 13 and started showing symptoms on July 22. He was isolated at an Ebola treatment centre on Tuesday. He had spent five days being treated at home and then went to a health facility, where Ebola was suspected.

Congo’s new Ebola response co-ordinator, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said the man died on Wednesday morning, a day after his case was announced.

Mr Muyembe has said there appears to be no link between the case and the previous one in Goma that was announced two-and-a-half weeks ago.

The second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history was declared a rare global health emergency days after the first case was confirmed in Goma, a scenario that health officials had long feared.

WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the concern is that the virus again will spread into one or more of Congo’s nine neighbouring countries.

In June, three people died in Uganda before other family members were taken back to Congo for treatment and Ugandan officials declared the country was again free of the disease.

WHO says the risk of regional spread remains “very high”. Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan began vaccinating health workers weeks or months ago.

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