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BWERA, Uganda (AP) — The Congolese pastor who is thought to have caused the Ebola outbreak’s spread into Uganda was unknown to health officials before he died of the disease, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said Thursday. That underlines the problems in tracking the virus as a WHO expert panel on Friday discusses whether to declare a global health emergency.
As a third relative of the pastor found infected in Uganda died, Dr. Mike Ryan told The Associated Press he did not believe the man had been on any list of high-risk Ebola contacts that health workers use to track infections and contain the outbreak.
The three family members became infected with Ebola when they traveled from Uganda to Congo to visit him. His 5-year-old grandson became the first Ebola case in Uganda and the first death after several family members quietly returned home on footpaths that bypassed border screening for the disease. The boy’s grandmother and 3-year-old brother have since died, health officials said Thursday.
“It’s an unfortunate occurrence that a pastor who’s taking care of people and providing care to people is himself infected in the line of his own work and then ultimately goes on to infect others,” Ryan said.
The pastor’s positive test for Ebola came back only after he was buried, Dr. Dominique Kabongo, coordinator of Ebola response teams in Kasindi, told the AP. Family members traditionally wash and dress the corpse.
More than 80 people attended the burial, Kabongo said.
The first cross-border cases in this Ebola outbreak — the second-deadliest in history — have prompted the WHO expert committee to again consider declaring a global health emergency after twice deciding against it. Such declarations almost always boost attention and donor funding.
Authorities in Congo and Uganda have vowed to step up border security after several members of the family, already showing symptoms of Ebola, were stopped at a Congolese border post but later slipped away and into Uganda.