Deadly Ebola outbreak spreads from Congo to Uganda


The second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history has now spread to Uganda — claiming the life of a 5-year-old boy Wednesday after the virus killed nearly 1,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two other cases of Ebola have also been confirmed in Uganda — the dead boy’s 3-year-old brother and 50-year-old grandmother, according to Ugandan authorities. They have been isolated at a hospital near the Congo border.

The 5-year-old boy, who was vomiting blood, crossed into Uganda with family members from eastern Congo earlier this week.

He died overnight, the World Health Organization confirmed in a tweet.

A dozen members of the boy’s family had shown symptoms of Ebola, the Congo’s health ministry said. They were not placed in isolation and told to remain where they were staying until they could be transported for treatment in Beni, according to Dr. Dominique Kabongo, coordinator of Ebola response teams in Kasindi.

But half of the family quietly crossed into Uganda, while five of the others have tested positive for the virus since being taken to Beni, the health ministry said.

Authorities were working to determine how the boy’s family managed to cross into Uganda after being exposed to the virus via a sick relative in Congo. They likely did not pass through official border points, where millions of travelers have been screened for a high temperature and other signs of illness for months.

“Many people are evading customs and using small footpaths and it is difficult for us to follow the contacts,” Kabongo said.

Officials in Congo and Uganda agreed that the sick patients “should be repatriated back to DRC where they can get therapeutic care which is not available in Uganda,” the WHO tweeted Wednesday.

“This is subject to the patients agreeing to go back,” the post said.

Ebola, the highly contagious, often deadly disease which spreads from close contact with bodily fluids of those infected, has been ravaging Congo since August.

A WHO expert committee has been put on alert for a possible meeting on whether to declare a global health emergency in light of the cross-border cases. The committee has twice decided that the current outbreak is of “deep concern” — but not yet a global health emergency.

Uganda has been multiple Ebola outbreaks over the years. In 2000, an outbreak in the north infected 425 people and killed more than half of them.

More than 130,000 doses of an experimental, but effective, Ebola vaccine has been distributed throughout Uganda, which has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers. The WHO is shipping in another 3,500 vaccine doses this week for health workers and close contacts of those infected.

Health experts believe the spread of the disease across borders is just the beginning.

“We can expect and should plan for more cases in (Congo) and neighboring countries,” warned Dr. Jeremy Farrar with the Wellcome Trust, which is funding vaccine research in this outbreak. “This epidemic is in a truly frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.”

With Post Wires