Ebola outbreak declared over in Democratic Republic of Congo

Henrietta Strickland
November 20, 2020

Congo has recorded 11 outbreaks since the Ebola virus was first discovered, in what was then Zaire, in 1976.

The declaration, which occurred more than 42 days after two tests came back negarive for the last confirmed case, was made in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, per a statement.

DR Congo on Wednesday declared the end of its latest Ebola epidemic, closing the file on an outbreak in the northwestern province of Equateur that claimed 55 lives in almost six months. Find out how the deadly virus was brought under control.

"This 11th Ebola virus epidemic has had the particularity of spreading much more to river and lake health zones", the health minister said Wednesday.

The 11th outbreak took place in communities scattered across dense rain forests as well as crowded urban areas in the Equatorial Province, and this caused some logistical challenges, but despite this, medics still strived to react well: tirelessly tracking cases, providing treatment, engaging communities and vaccinating more than 40,000 people at high risk.

"There remains a high risk of a resurgence", the minister said.

Longondo asked the population to remain alert and maintain hygiene measures "to prevent the recurrence of Ebola, but also to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that is ravaging the country". The response also tapped into the expertise of local health workers trained during the two recent outbreaks in the DRC.

"Though the outbreak is over, children affected by the Ebola epidemic will still require special attention and care, as communities affected begin to return to normal life", said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in the DRC.

It quoted Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying, "Overcoming one of the world's most unsafe pathogens in remote and hard to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together". "Combating Ebola in parallel with Covid-19 has not been easy, but much of the knowledge we have gained in one disease is applicable to the other, and underscore the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and increasing local capacity". As Jacques Katshishi, head of the national Red Cross, the Congolese communities still heavily rely on support from the worldwide fora, taking into account the current pandemic of COVID-19.

" Reducing Ebola to zero is a huge achievement, but now we face our next challenge: keeping it that way. Our Red Cross teams in DRC fight Covid-19 in a complex humanitarian and security environment", he said. This epidemic was the worst in the history of DR Congo, and the second most serious in the world, after the one that devastated West Africa from 2014 to 2016. "The time to prepare is now", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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