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GENEVA (Reuters) – A Ebola victim who died from Ebola this week probably carried the virus from Congo into both Rwanda and Uganda, the World Health Organization said, as health workers struggled to track down people she could have infected.
The woman is one of almost 1,700 victims of the highly contagious disease during an 11-month epidemic that the WHO, reflecting growing concerns that it might spread, on Wednesday declared an international health emergency.
Three victims died in Uganda last month without spreading Ebola further there, while Rwanda has never had a recorded case.
The Congolese fishmonger vomited there several times on July 11, a few days before she died, and a second fish trader who spent time there died of Ebola in Congo on Tuesday, the WHO said. It cited a Ugandan health ministry report.
Twelve people have been identified as at high risk of catching Ebola from the fishmonger.
But local official Wilson Agaba said authorities had been slow to send gloves and chlorine solution to medics in the market area, and some residents were refusing to help trace the fishmonger’s contacts for fear of testing positive for Ebola and being isolated.
The health ministry suspected that, while infected, the fishmonger also went to Gisenyi in Rwanda on business, and to Goma, a Congolese border city of more than 1 million that serves as a regional and international gateway and where a pastor died of the disease this month.
The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene said the pastor’s death illustrated “the powder-keg nature of this … outbreak.”
Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at Britain’s University of Nottingham, said the latest cases showed current efforts were not effective enough to halt the epidemic, which “is showing no signs of letting up”.
Rwanda is intensifying screening at ports of entry and recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to Ebola-affected areas, its government said via the WHO.