1st Ebola death confirmed in DRC's Goma

Pastor's death raises fear that Ebola has spread to Goma

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", a rare designation only used for the gravest epidemics.

At three prior meetings on the topic, the WHO declined to declare the outbreak an global public-health emergency.

While the risk of regional spread remains high the risk outside the region remains low, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after the announcement in Geneva.

This is only the fifth time in history such a designation has been used, and the most recent was during the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa.

A PHEIC declaration would be just the fifth in World Health Organization history and include recommendations for global action.

"It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts".

While Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that he hopes countries continue to contribute funding to the response, the emergency declaration is meant as a call for strengthened and streamlined global effort to slow the outbreak, which has thus far infected more than 2,400 people.

The tipping point this time appeared to be the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of nearly 2 million people on the border with Rwanda.

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"While we have long expected that Ebola would reach Goma, there is still a sense of shock that a case has finally been confirmed in the city".

The Goma patient has been described as an evangelical preacher who had travelled from the city to Butembo, one of the towns hardest hit by Ebola.

NPR's Nurith Aizenman reported that the person was a pastor in Goma.

The WHO chief said Wednesday that there has been violence in the region for years. There is no cure for the highly contagious disease, though an ongoing clinical trial is testing four different therapeutic treatments in the hopes that one will prove efficient. The IRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. This has raised fears that the virus could spread more widely in what is already the second deadliest ever Ebola epidemic.

The health response relies on tracking down people who may have been exposed to the virus and vaccinating them and anybody they have had contact with.

Goma is more than 220 miles south of where the latest outbreak was first detected a year ago. The WHO has said the regional Ebola risk is "very high". The attacks have led to spikes in cases and hurt the painstaking work of tracing the thousands of people who have come into contact with those infected. The current outbreak has killed 1,676 people - more than two-thirds of those who contracted it - since it emerged in August 2018.

A Congolese health worker prepares to administer an Ebola vaccine to a man at the Himbi Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019. "Despite significant improvement in many places, there is concern about potential spread from Goma", it said. "They, in turn, are infecting women".

"This isn't like past Ebola outbreaks, which occurred in relatively stable climates".

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