Fears worsened Wednesday that the year-old Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo will spread to neighboring countries, as a boy in Uganda died from the disease and two of his close relatives were infected.
The 5-year-old boy, from a Congolese family that had crossed into western Uganda on Sunday, was the first confirmed case of Ebola outside the Democratic Republic of Congo since the highly infectious illness broke out last summer in the eastern part of the African country.
Signaling his concern, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced he was convening a meeting of a group of outside expert advisers Friday to assess whether the disease's spread had become an international public health emergency.
It will be the third such meeting on the Ebola outbreak by the group of experts, known as the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.
The WHO, which reported the first Uganda case Tuesday, said Wednesday that the child had died and that his 50-year-old grandmother and 3-year-old brother were confirmed to have tested positive for Ebola. The organization said a hospital in the Ugandan border town of Bwera was treating them in isolation and that at least eight people may have been in contact with the first victim, raising the risk of further infections.
Ebola, a viral disease that causes internal bleeding, is spread through the bodily fluids of infected people and is extremely contagious.
Infectious-disease experts expressed alarm about Ebola's spillover into Uganda, even though that country has long anticipated the possibility and has administered a promising new vaccine to thousands of health workers, as have health authorities in Congo.
The Congo outbreak is the second-deadliest on record, infecting more than 2,071 people and causing at least 1,396 deaths in the country as of Monday, according to the WHO. Its epicenter in a conflict zone has complicated efforts to contain the disease.
Health workers, including doctors, have been attacked and killed, and some treatment centers have been destroyed. In April, the Islamic State claimed its first assault in the affected area.
International health experts also have expressed worry about an acceleration in the number of Ebola infections. While it took about eight months to reach 1,000 cases, it has taken only a few months to surpass 2,000.
The WHO's emergency committee has twice before concluded that the outbreak does not represent a global health threat, partly because it had not spread across borders.
Declaring the outbreak as such a health threat, known as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, would increase the level of attention that the WHO's member countries devote to combating it.
The largest Ebola outbreak in history ravaged the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014 to 2016, killing more than 11,300 people.
A Section on 06/13/2019
Print Headline: Boy's Ebola death stirs fears of disease's spread