Just hours after a third case of Ebola was reported in the border town of Goma, Rwanda closed its border with the DRC. Health workers have long feared an outbreak of Ebola in the frontier city.
Rwanda closed its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday following the third reported case of Ebola in the frontier city of Goma, both countries said.
Goma, an impoverished city of 2 million people, is a major transport hub in the DRC and the arrival of Ebola in the city has long been feared by health experts. The densely packed, highly mobile population will make containing the highly contagious and deadly disease difficult.
Thursday's decision came just hours after the third case in the city was announced. The disease first arrived last month, when an infected preacher arrived in the city and preached at seven churches, regularly touching worshipers. He died after leaving the city.
The second Goma case, reportedly unconnected to the first, was a gold miner who arrived at his family home from the provinces. He transmitted the disease to at least one of his 10 children before he died. There are at least 12 more suspected cases in and around Goma.
After the preacher's death, the World Health Organization declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern," prompting major funding pledges.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi condemned the "unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities" to shut the border. He said it would affect citizens from both countries. More than 57,500 people travel between Goma and the small Rwandan city of Gisenyi every day.
"On the basis of a unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities, Rwandan citizens cannot go to Goma and Congolese cannot leave Gisenyi but are prevented from going home," the statement from the president's office said. "This decision harms a number of Congolese and expatriates who live in Gisenyi but work in Goma."
"The Congolese authorities regret this kind of decision, which goes against the recommendation of the World Health Organization.
"Response teams are continuing to ensure that the city of Goma is out of danger," it promised.
Already in Uganda
More than 1,800 people have died from the disease in eastern DRC in the past year. In June, the disease jumped the border into Uganda.
The virus casues fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding. It is transmitted through contact with infected body fluids. There is no cure, but an experimental vaccine has shown success.
(AFP, AP, EFE, LUSA, epd)