Rwanda has closed part of its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, a drastic step that comes after two people have died from Ebola in a border city in the past month.
Officials in Congo said the latest victim died just days after his case was confirmed by medical professionals in Goma, a border city of more than 2 million people that also has an international airport.
The first confirmed case in Goma was a 46-year-old preacher who managed to pass through three health checkpoints on the way from Butembo. Authorities noted that there’s no link between cases in the city, but raised concerns that the highly-contagious virus is spreading.
The Congolese presidency said there had been a “unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities” to shut down the border crossing at Goma, according to the BBC.
“The Congolese authorities deplore this decision, which runs counter to the advice of the WHO” the statement added.
This comes as the crisis has already become the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, with more than 1,700 people killed even though medical professionals widely use an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine.
Health officials for months feared that an Ebola case would be confirmed in the city. Just days after the first Goma case was confirmed, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak a rare global emergency – the highest level of alarm.
The organization has used such an alarm level only four times in its history, including the Ebola epidemic that took the lives of more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
While the alert prompted a surge of millions of dollars in new pledges by international donors, health workers say a new approach is desperately needed to combat misunderstandings in the community that lead people with Ebola not to seek medical help.
There is no licensed treatment for Ebola and many people in the region don’t believe that Ebola is real, health workers have said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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