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Ebola outbreak in the DRC is over – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the latest outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is over.

Reported in the Western DRC on June 1 this year, the epidemic came at a time that a serious outbreak of the same disease was on the verge of being defeated in the Eastern part of the country.

 

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.

 

On Wednesday, November 18, the WHO came out to declare that this outbreak – the 11th of its kind has as well been dealt with.

 

The outbreak lasted about 6 months, and in these 119 confirmed cases, 55 deaths and 75 recoveries were registered. 

“Today marks the end of the 11th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), nearly six months after the first cases were reported in Equateur Province,” read a statement from the WHO.

WHO says the response to the 11th Ebola outbreak had to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, which strained resources and created difficulties around the movement of experts and supplies; and there were also challenges around a large number of cases in remote communities which were often only accessible by boat or helicopter and at times community resistance hampered response efforts.

“Overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hard to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a Covid-19 vaccine to Africa. Tackling Ebola in parallel with Covid-19 hasn’t been easy, but much of the expertise we’ve built in one disease is transferrable to another and underlines the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and building local capacity,” she added.

According to the WHO, the 10th outbreak that was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and the latest one of 2020 were geographically far apart, and genetic sequencing analysis found that they were unrelated. 

While the 11th outbreak is over, the WHO issued a warning that there is a need for continued vigilance and maintaining strong surveillance as potential flare-ups are possible in the months to come.

“The end of this outbreak serves as a reminder that governments and partners must continue to focus attention on other emergencies, even as the fight against COVID-19 persists.

There is a need for greater investment in strengthening the core capacities of countries in the implementation of the International Health Regulations.

Enhancing preparedness will lead to improved response to threats arising from epidemic-prone diseases and result in less social and economic impact,” read a statement from the organization.

hkuteesa@newtimesrwanda.com

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