World Health Organisation's regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti Picture: Twitter
World Health Organisation's regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti Picture: Twitter

Deadly Ebola virus contained in DRC as last patient is released

By Songezo Ndlendle Time of article published Mar 4, 2020

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After years of battling one of the most deadly Ebola virus outbreaks in the world in the Democratic Republic of Congo, second only to the West African epidemic of 2013-2016, health workers are optimistic the disease, which has ravaged the country's north-east, will soon be history.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the last Ebola patient in the country has been discharged from a treatment centre in the north-eastern town of Beni. 

With no more confirmed cases, a 42-day countdown towards declaring the end of the world’s second-deadliest Ebola epidemic had started on Monday, the United Nations agency said.

Although the patient had been allowed to leave, 46 people who had come in contact with her were still being monitored.

From 24 February to 1 March, no new confirmed cases of the Ebola virus disease were reported in the country. In the past 21 days, 10 February to 1 March, the outbreak has been confined to a relatively small geographic area, the WHO's latest report says.

During this period, two new confirmed cases were reported from one health area in Beni Health Zone, North Kivu Province. 

It has been more than 42 days since new cases were detected in all health zones except Beni and Mabalako, though surveillance activities are ongoing in all health zones to avoid resurgence of the outbreak.

"I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment centre healthy," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa.

"It is not yet the end of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We must stay vigilant in the coming weeks and beyond."

"There are currently zero cases of Ebola in DRC after over a year of fighting this outbreak. So proud of all involved in the response. 

"We are hopeful, yet cautiously optimistic that we will soon bring this outbreak to an end," she said on Twitter.

The WHO has congratulated all partners involved in the fight to end the epidemic, saying that its health workers remained in full response mode for the remainder of the observation period.

This is the 10th Ebola outbreak in the DRC and the most severe there since 1976, when scientists first identified the virus near the eponymous Ebola River. 

It's also one of the worst on record anywhere, second only to the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in multiple West African nations that infected 28 652 people and killed 11 325, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of 1 March, there were 3 444 confirmed and probable cases and 2 264 deaths since its declaration in August 2018 in DRC.

The virus was declared as a global health emergency by the WHO and described it as more complex than the deadlier 2014-16 outbreak due to the region's political instability, attacks on health workers, a highly mobile population, and community mistrust and misinformation. 

Transmission of Ebola virus can occur in groups outside current surveillance activities, even with strengthened operations. 

Ebola virus persists in some survivors’ body fluids, with potential to infect others and relapse was observed in at least one instance during this outbreak, sparking a new chain of transmission. 

It is thus crucial to maintain response capacities to rapidly detect and respond to any new cases and to prioritise continued survivor support, monitoring and co-operative relationships with the survivors’ associations. These activities will reinforce surveillance capacity and trust, the WHO said.

African News Agency

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