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Uganda fears the Ebola outbreak after the death of a Congolese fish merchant

The Ugandan health worker is preparing to administer the Ebola vaccine to a man in the village of Kirembo, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Kasese district, Uganda June 16, 2019. REUTERS / James Akena / Archival photo

GENEVA – A Congolese woman who died of Ebola this month vomited four times in the Ugandan market after crossing the border a few days earlier to sell fish, the WHO said, fueling fears that the virus could spread outside the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The current outbreak of a highly contagious disease was limited to the Congo, killing 1,473 people there – more than two-thirds of those who contracted it – in the last year and three in Uganda last month.

The Panel of the World Health Organization is considering whether to announce an outbreak of "international concern", which meant that the head of the agency proposed a case this month in the large Congolese city of Goma.

The fisherwoman went on July 11 across the border to the Mpondwe market, according to a report by the Ugandan Ministry of Health published on Wednesday by the WHO.

It was found that 19 fish sellers were listed as having possible contact with it, while another 590 may be the target of vaccination.

The reaction to the virus is to track down and test people who may have been exposed to it and inoculation of them and everyone with whom they had contact.

Ugandan and Congolese officials worked to find people who could be at risk from a dead woman who apparently took advantage of the illegal border crossing, said spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Emmanuel Ainebyon.

So far, "nobody has been positive about the Ebola virus. The team is constantly monitoring proven traders – he said. The report said that health workers did not find out where the fish seller spent the night, who transported her goods and who cleaned the vomit.

The Ministry and the WHO stated that there are currently no confirmed cases of Eboli in Uganda.

The emergency committee of international WHO experts met on Wednesday for the fourth time to consider whether the 11-month epidemic is an "international public health failure" (PHEIC) and will announce its decision at 17:00 GMT.

The PHEIC declaration would be only the fifth in the history of the WHO and would include recommendations for international action. It can also help you unlock the much-needed funds.

Last month, the commission decided that a potential disruption in declaring someone risking economic harm would not achieve anything.

But the head of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week that the Goma case was a potential change of the game, because it meant that Ebola could now spread among the urban population and neighboring Rwanda.

A separate WHO report gave a very high risk to the Arua district in Uganda, which borders the Congolese area where the Ebola patient died after contact with over 200 people. Two deaths in Arua were investigated.

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