After feeling sick for several days, a man boarded a bus to Goma, eastern Congo’s largest city. Only upon his arrival did anyone suspect: The man had the deadly and infectious Ebola virus. Now health authorities are trying to hunt down everyone he may have been in contact with.
Goma is home to more than 2 million people. It’s the largest city to confirm a case of the disease since the epidemic—the second deadliest in history—began nearly a year ago. Health experts feared the disease would make its way there.
“From here you can fly to everywhere in the world,” says Dr. Harouna Djingarey, an infectious disease program manager for the World Health Organization. “Some high-risk contacts may fly, take a plane, and go somewhere.”
During his trip, the man passed through three health checkpoints. Health workers were supposed to stop folks sick with Ebola. But the man didn’t act sick, and he lied about his name. Because of that, some believe he knew what he was doing. Sadly, news reports state that the man was a priest visiting churches. At each church, he touched people—possibly infecting them. The priest died. His actions caused much grief and may have harmed the name of Jesus with the very people he hoped to minister to.
Some people in Congo are worried after learning about the sick pastor. “God help us if Ebola is now in Goma,” says Baudouine Rudahigwa. “My children are now on alert that they can’t greet or play with others. They are washing their hands all the time.”
Officials have been preparing for the possibility that a case would emerge in Goma. More than 3,000 health workers have been vaccinated. Neighboring Rwanda has taken measures to stop the disease from spreading across its border.
The World Health Organization says the risk of the outbreak spreading beyond Congo’s borders is low. But when people won’t obey health authorities, containing Ebola is difficult. This week, WHO will decide whether the epidemic should be declared a global emergency.
(In this photograph taken Saturday, July 13, 2019, health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim in an isolation cube in Beni, Congo DRC. AP Photo/Jerome Delay)