The first case of Ebola has been confirmed in Goma, the biggest city to have been affected by the disease since its outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last August, the health ministry said on Sunday.
"Due to the speed with which the patient has been identified and isolated, as well as the identification of all bus passengers from Butembo, the risk of spreading to the rest of the city of Goma remains low", the ministry said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a statement on Monday that the case threatened to be a "game-changer" in the ongoing epidemic, which has killed more than 1,600 people so far and had not previously reached a major urban hub.
Unidentified attackers killed two Ebola health workers near Mukulia in North Kivu province over the weekend, the latest in a string of assaults this year that have injured or killed dozens of responders. "But, if this is multiple cases in Goma, that is a turning point". "In addition, at each checkpoint he wrote different names and surnames on the lists of travellers, probably indicating his desire to hide his identity and state of health", the ministry said.
Health workers in Goma, which has a population of about one million and is the capital of North Kivu province, were vaccinated as early as December when the outbreak first hit Butembo some 300 kilometres (180 miles) north. Last Tuesday the preacher fell ill and was seen at home by a nurse before he began his bus trip to Goma. When he arrived in Goma on Sunday he went to a clinic where he tested positive for Ebola and he was taken back to a clinic in Butembo on Monday.
Other times the violence against health teams has come from residents who do not want their loved ones taken to treatment centers or buried in accordance with guidelines aimed at reducing Ebola transmission. "Ebola gets a free ride", Ghebreyesus said.
Health experts have long feared that the disease responsible for killing almost 1,700 people since August would eventually make its way to Goma.
People suspecting of Ebola Virus wait at a treatment centre in Bikoro Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet, despite these exhaustive preventative and treatment efforts, fighting Ebola has proved hard because of community mistrust, limited health care resources, difficult-to-access locations, and violent attacks on heath care workers.
The disease spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak is the second worst ever, after an epidemic between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa.
The area where the outbreak is taking place is also home to one of Congo's most protracted and violent conflicts - a patchwork of ethnic militias, vigilantes, and government-aligned forces.