Kinshasa (DR Congo): The first case of Ebola has been confirmed in Goma, Congo, the biggest city to have been affected by the disease since its outbreak in eastern DR Congo last August, the health ministry said on Sunday (July 14).

The patient is a pastor who had been preaching in a church and would have probably touched the hands of worshippers "including the sick", the ministry said in a statement.

His symptoms first appeared last Tuesday (July 9) in Butembo, one of the main towns touched by Ebola where he had been preaching.

He left by bus on Friday (July 12) to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, arriving early on Sunday, where "the results of the laboratory test confirmed that he was positive for Ebola", the ministry said.

"Given that the patient was quickly identified, as well as all the passengers on the bus from Butembo, the risk of the disease spreading in the city of Goma is low," the ministry said.

The other 18 passengers and the driver will begin getting vaccinations on Monday (July 15), it added.

Health workers in Goma were vaccinated as early as December when the outbreak first hit Butembo some 300km further north.

Poor roads separate the two towns under the threat of armed groups.

The latest Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has so far killed 1,655 people, and 694 have been cured, according to a health ministry bulletin on Saturday, and 1,60,239 people have been vaccinated, it added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had initially voiced hope that it would be able to contain the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever, thanks in part to the new vaccine.

But efforts to tackle the crisis have been hampered both by militia attacks on treatment centres, in which some staff have been killed and by the hostility of some local people to the medical teams.

Insecurity in the restive region, including a long-standing presence of various rebel groups in Ituri and North Kivu, has also made it difficult for health workers to access those who might have come into contact with Ebola.

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 tenth in DR Congo in 40 years, putting all of East Africa on alert.

It is already the second deadliest on record globally, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014-2016 and killed more than 11,300 people.