A five-year-old boy infected with Ebola has died in Uganda as two of his relatives also tested positive for the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the child died in Uganda’s western Kasese district on Wednesday after travelling with his mother from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) two days earlier. His infection marked the first cross-border case of the virus in the current epidemic.
Medical tests confirmed the boy’s three-year-old brother and 51-year-old grandmother were also infected with the virus, WHO added.
The pair are now being treated in isolation at the Kasese district’s Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit, with both suffering from a range of symptoms including vomiting blood, bloody diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
— WHO Uganda (@WHOUganda) June 12, 2019
Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s health minister, said seven others suspected to have been infected with the virus were being monitored.
An expert committee will meet on Friday in Geneva to discuss whether to declare the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency, the WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.
Two previous such meetings decided the outbreak was not yet fit for a declaration of that nature, despite being of “deep concern”.
Uganda and the wider East Africa region have been on high alert over Ebola since the virus emerged in the DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces in August last year. More than 2,000 cases have been recorded since the start of the outbreak, the DRC’s 10th to date, and nearly 1,400 people have died.
In a precautionary move, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers in 165 facilities with an experimental drug designed to protect them against the virus.
Among those vaccinated are the members of a rapid response team who have been deployed to Kasese to trace likely cases and vaccinate those who might have come into contact with any people infected.
Experts have long feared Ebola could spread from the DRC to neighbouring countries, with regional insecurity and deep community mistrust hampering emergency responders’ efforts to contain the virus.
More than 100 attacks on treatment centres and health workers in DRC have been recorded since the beginning of this year, according to WHO.
Last week, the United Nations agency warned that a quarter of all cases in the outbreak may be going undetected, with scores of victims dying without having been admitted to Ebola treatment centres.