Ebola workers killed in eastern DR Congo

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Unidentified attackers killed two Ebola health workers in eastern Congo over the weekend, the health ministry said, the latest in a string of assaults hampering efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Local mistrust of health officials and militia violence in Congo’s restive east has seen new cases surge. Nearly 2,500 people have been infected and more than 1,600 killed in the second biggest outbreak on record.

Dozens of responders have been injured or killed in attacks this year.

The people killed were community workers near Mukulia in North Kivu province and had received threats since December. One was previously attacked, the ministry said in a statement.

The first case of Ebola in the eastern Congo city Goma was confirmed on Sunday, raising concerns the virus could spread quicker in a densely populated area close to the Rwandan border.

Goma, a lakeside city of a million, is more than 350 kilometres south of where the outbreak was first detected a year ago.

The patient was a priest who became infected during a visit to Butembo, north of Goma, where he interacted with Ebola patients, Congo’s health ministry said in a statement.

He developed symptoms last week before taking a bus to Goma on Friday. When he arrived in Goma on Sunday he went to a clinic where he tested positive for Ebola and was taken back to a Butembo clinic on Monday.

“Due to the speed with which the patient was identified and isolated, as well as identification of all bus passengers from Butembo, the risk of Ebola spreading to the rest of Goma remains low,” the ministry said.

Goma has been preparing for the arrival of Ebola for a year setting up hand-washing stations and making sure moto-taxi drivers do not share helmets.

Ebola causes diarrhoea, vomiting and haemorrhagic fever and can spread through bodily fluids. An epidemic between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa.