World’s 2nd deadliest Ebola outbreak of DRC declared over by WHO

On 27 April 2019, a view of the city of Butembo, one of the hotspots of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: © WHO/Junior Kannah

After two long years of deadly fight with the dangerous Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the epidemic is over, the World Health Organization declares.

The announcement from WHO came on 25th June which marks the end of a deadly battle that broke out in North Kivu, East Africa in 2018 and killed 2,277 people until this year. It was the second-deadliest in the world. WHO and DRC declared the end of the outbreak after there was no fresh case declared in more than 40 days — two gestation periods of the virus.

Democratic Republic of Congo Health Minister Eteni Longondo said it was one of the most complex, deadliest, and longest outbreak in the 60-years history of the nation.  There were all total 3470 cases, 2287 of whom died and 1171 survived. Ebola has a very high mortality rate, with some outbreaks touching 90% mortality rates.

On 20 June 2019, a team disinfects a home and personal effects belonging to people who have died from Ebola, in Tamende district, Beni, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: © WHO/Christopher Black

Only the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was larger than this, that killed more than 11k people.

The World Health organization congratulated the nation for marking an end to the dangerous and painstaking journey of containing a virus. However, the world public health body had also warned for potential flare-ups as it suggests to continue to help thr survivors in the coming months that are ‘critical.’

“The outbreak took so much from all of us especially from the people of DRC but we came out of it with valuable lessons and valuable tools. The world is now better equipped to respond to ebola. A vaccine has been licensed and effective treatments identified,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told in a statement.

“We should celebrate this moment but we must resist compliance. Viruses do not take breaks. Ultimately the best defense against an outbreak is investing in a stronger health system as the foundation of universal health coverage” he added.

Ebola vaccination teams at work, Tamende health zone, Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo Photo showing Ebola Vaccination in Democratic Republic of the Congo, June 2019 / 2nd deadliest Ebola outbreak of DRC declared over by WHO

Celebration with caution

It was a tedious battle that kept the administration of the already troubled area on the heels. Ebola spreads quite easily through the bodily fluids of the infected, even after the person has died. Over 200k samples were tested, and over 300k people were jabbed with the highly effective rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine.

While it is worth celebrating, but the war is not over. As the WHO DG said, viruses do not rest. On June 1st, the 11th outbreak in the DRC, this time in the Mbandaka area of Équateur Province was declared.

On 23 June 2019 health workers inside a ‘CUBE’ talk to an Ebola patient, while a family member of a patient looks on from outside at the ALIMA Ebola Treatment Centre in Beni, the North KivuDemocratic Republic of the Congo. The CUBE, or Biosecure Emergency Care Unit for Outbreaks is a self-contained and easily transportable system for outbreaks of highly-infectious disease. The CUBE, developed by ALIMA is being used in the ongoing Ebola response in DRC. Photo: © WHO/Chris Black

The genetic analysis determined that the virus in the new outbreak was different from the others the country has seen. By now, more than 5k vaccines have been jabbed and more than 50 WHO staff have been deployed to fight the spread.

(Cover image of the Ebola hotspot in DRC is courtesy of the World Health Organization)