Ebola officials urged to declare global health emergency after disease kills two

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A SECOND person has died of Ebola in Uganda as the deadly virus spreads beyond the Congo for the first time.

The woman has become the second patient in Uganda to die of the deadly Ebola virus in the latest outbreak of the disease, a health ministry official said on Thursday.

The woman was the grandmother of a five-year-old boy who died on Tuesday evening after crossing into Uganda with his family from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The grandmother also died last night,” the official, Emmanuel Ainebyona, said.

Ainebyona said two other patients remained in isolation – the three-year-old brother of the dead boy and a 23-year-old Ugandan man who has manifested Ebola symptoms.

Test results for the 23-year old are expected later on Thursday, he said, adding that a total of 27 contacts are now being monitored.

The current Ebola epidemic began in August last year in eastern Congo and has already infected at least 2,062 people, killing 1,390 of them.

The infections in Uganda confirmed that the deadly outbreak has spread for the first time beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The health ministry has banned public gatherings in the Kasese district in Uganda following the Ebola outbreak.

However, an experimental but apparently effective vaccine is being deployed for the first time.

Uganda has vaccinated some 4,700 health workers, the World Health Organisation said.

“The spread of Ebola across the international border is a clear signal that the international community must reset and redouble its efforts” in combatting the disease, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said on Wednesday.

The Congo outbreak is both the second largest and second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

Concern had been mounting that the infectious disease would cross the border, underscored by an increase in the number of cases in recent weeks.

WHO has come under pressure to declare the outbreak an international health emergency.

In April, the health body said it did not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust, a UK medical research charity, said that while Uganda was well-prepared to cope with the disease, global health authorities should be ready for more cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighboring countries.

“This epidemic is in a truly frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon,” he said in a statement.

“There are now more deaths than any other Ebola outbreak in history, bar the West Africa Epidemic of 2013-16, and there can be no doubt that the situation could escalate towards those terrible levels.”

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