Amid Ebola fears, Rwanda’s border with Congo is open, government official says

Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo is open, a government official told CNN Thursday.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, minister of state for Rwanda, said that the reports of the border closing over concerns about the spread of Ebola were due to a “misunderstanding” and there had been a temporary closure due to a “technical issue.”

Rwanda’s health ministry said in a statement Thursday that travelers experienced long queues at the border on Thursday because health officials were increasing screening procedures. The ministry said it had reinforced screening at entry points since the first Ebola case was detected in Goma in July, and warned against unnecessary travel to the city.

“If we had planned to close the border, we would have informed our Congolese counterparts ahead of time. We can’t just close the border without a plan. There are no plans to close the border at this time, though we are, of course, monitoring the situation with the Ebola crisis closely,” Nduhungirehe said.

CNN has reached out to officials in Congo for comment.

Two Ebola patients in the city of Goma have died. Goma is home to more than 1 million people and is a major transit hub along the border with Rwanda.

The first Ebola patient diagnosed in Goma died on July 16, and the second patient died on Wednesday, according to World Health Organization.

On July 17, a day after the first Goma patient died, WHO declared the Ebola outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The Congo Ebola outbreak is the second largest and second deadliest in history, and has killed more than 1,800 people.

Worries about the spread of Ebola

A third case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma on Thursday.

Jinane Saad, spokesperson for Médecins Sans Frontières, told CNN the latest Ebola patient in Goma was identified after health ministry officials followed up with those who had close contact with the second patient.

“The patient was safely isolated and provided with the necessary medical care. Due to patient confidentiality we cannot reveal health status details of this individual,” Saad said, adding that other individuals were identified and admitted in the MSF-supported Ebola Treatment Centre in the Provincial Hospital in Goma.

Ebola virus disease can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea and unexplained bleeding, among other symptoms. The virus was first identified in 1976 when outbreaks occurred near the Ebola River in Congo.

WHO officials have long worried about Ebola’s arrival in Goma. Its large, highly mobile population raises the risk of the virus spreading.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said health screenings at border crossings had been reinforced and 24-hour monitoring has been implemented at the airport.

Ghebreyesus added that more than 5,000 health workers have been vaccinated against Ebola in the city and health centers have been trained and provided equipment to improve infection prevention and control.

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