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Church pastor who carried Ebola virus into city dies

by Cara Bentley

Daniel Kubuya Mastaki, 46, is the first to die from the disease in the city of Goma after he contracted it while praying for people in the Butembo area, north of Goma.

The Ebola outbreak was declared a 'Public Health Emergency of International Concern' by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday after news of the pastor's death.

The WHO said they were also disappointed at the delays of funding a good response.

The pastor was working in Butembo and was praying for people who were sick before he travelled to Goma, on the border with Rwanda, by bus.

Esperant Mulumba, Christian Aid's Acting Country Manager for the Democratic Republic of Congo, told Premier's News Hour how Daniel Kubuya Mastaki contracted the deadly disease: "This pastor had been in the Butembo area where he was ministering and he was working.

"He was praying for people that were sick and among the people that he was praying for were Ebola patients. It is said that he had physical contact with the patients, with the Ebola cases, as he was praying for them - as he touched them during the prayer session - and later on travelled from Butembo to Goma with a group of around 18 people in a minivan.

"Upon arrival, he presented some symptoms, but first went home to try and see if there was a way to manage it with usual household drugs and when this was not possible he went into a medical facility that was closer to his neighbourhood, and the medical facility then referred him to the General Hospital.

"It was clear that the hospital was not prepared for treatment, although they were able to contain and make sure that he was not contaminating people around himself. So, they then evacuated him back to the Butembo where he was supposed to receive the treatment, where the treatment centre was, and he was dead on arrival in Butembo."

Mr Mulumba added that it is possible the pastor didn't know for definite that those he was praying for had Ebola, but that he would have known they were sick and had symptoms similar to those associated with Ebola.

"It is hard to say that he would have known that the people actually had Ebola, but he was aware that the people were sick and that's why the prayer sessions were organised.

"However, the symptoms can be akin to malaria or any other - most tropical diseases would have similar symptoms, especially in the early stages. So, did the pastor know that his the people he was praying for were infected with Ebola? We don't know, at least I don't know at this point. But was he aware that people were sick and they had symptoms that are akin to Ebola? That would be a yes, because this was specific prayers for sick people that were organised."

More than 1,600 people have died since August in the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. 

Mr Mulumba said that the church as a whole in the DRC has played a valuable role in getting the message out about prevention techniques, namely that Ebola can be spread through orifices, open wounds and bodily fluid, even sweat.

Mr Mulumba explained: "If I shook somebody's hand, whose bodily fluid like sweat, for example, was left on my hand, and that person had Ebola and I wipe my mouth with my hand later on, then I would easily contract the virus. Skin to skin contact transmission is possible in extreme cases but usually only when there is a lesion on the skin or a wound or something or an opening on the skin that would facilitate the transmission."

Click here to listen to the full interview with Esperant Mulumba from the Democratic Republic of Congo: 

On Tuesday, the UK's Department for International Development (DfiD) announced a further £50 million in funding to aid the ongoing response.

DfID has so far been funding a vaccination programme, surveillance and the construction of treatment centres.

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said: "There are still a lot of things to be very, very worried about.

"This is not a moment for complacency - we are literally on a knife edge. We are going to have to put a lot more money into this on a no regrets basis.

"It is smart to spend money now, so we don't have to spend much more later."

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