The second worst Ebola outbreak in history threatens to spread outside the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Earlier this month, local authorities confirmed the first cases of the highly contagious disease in the neighboring country of Uganda. A 5-year-old boy and his 50-year-old grandmother died of the hemorrhagic fever after they traveled from Congo.
Controlling The Ebola Outbreak A Bigger Challenge
Since then, no new confirmed cases of Ebola has been reported in Uganda. However, authorities remain on high alert, especially along the border.
According to a recent report by AP News, people who unknowingly carry the deadly virus may be walking in and out of Congo. The official border posts between two countries are open 12 hours a day but, at night, people might be walking along the "panyas," the narrow dirt paths to crossover and visit family members or go to public markets.
"This border is very porous," explained James Mwanga, a police officer in charge of the border post in Mpondwe, Uganda. "You will not know who has passed if the person went through the unofficial border posts, in most cases."
That is how the authorities believe an infected family crossed the border from Congo to Uganda. When they attended the wake of their grandfather who died of Ebola himself in Congo, the family took a footpath that led them back to Uganda, not knowing that they have been carrying the virus.
The rest of the family, including a 3-year-old who has been confirmed to be infected, has been sent back to Congo for treatment. However, local health workers have isolated a couple more people who might have been exposed to Ebola in Uganda.
Up to 800 people from Congo enter Uganda every day via the border post in Mpondwe. However, the official number of people crossing through the footpaths is unknown.
"So, it's not easy," stated Primrose Natukunda of the Uganda Red Cross. "It's constant. Every minute you have to be on alert."
Uganda On High Alert
Ugandan health officials have adopted strict measures to prevent the outbreak of Ebola in the country. Public gatherings, including prayers and market days, were temporarily prohibited. People are also advised to avoid hugs and handshakes.
The Ebola virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids.
As of June 18, 2,096 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Congo. Over a thousand have died from the disease.