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New DRC Ebola Case, Outbreak Still Considered a PHEIC

APR 17, 2020 | GRANT M. GALLAGHER
A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in the city of Beni in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The unfortunate announcement comes just as the end seemed to be in sight for the outbreak. On March 4, 2020, the person previously regarded as the last confirmed Ebola patient was released from care.

WHO assistant director-general Ibrahima Socé Fall, MD, warned of the need to remain vigilant at that time.

“The outbreak isn’t over. WHO recommends waiting 2 full incubation periods, that’s 42 days, after the last person tests negative a second time before declaring the end of the outbreak,” Fall said.

When this case was identified, the nation had not seen a new case for 40 days. Contact tracing is currently underway to identify anyone the individual may have transmitted Ebola to, and the WHO reports that thousands of alerts are still being investigated every day.

“An alert is a person who has symptoms that could be due to Ebola, or any death in a high-risk area that could have been as result of Ebola,” according to a statement.

It is likely that additional cases will be identified, according to the WHO. Armed groups are active in the area where recent cases were identified, and a lack of resources is putting strain on the response.

The Ebola outbreak in the DRC was first declared in August 2018. Since then, the illness has claimed 2276 lives across 3456 cases (3311 confirmed & 145 probable).  There have been 1169 patient survivors.

In response to the development of a new confirmed case, The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recommended that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, director-general of the WHO, extend the Public Health Emergency of International Concern designation currently applied to the outbreak.

The director-general agreed to the committee’s recommendation.

“While not welcome news, this is an event we anticipated. We kept response teams in Beni and other high-risk areas for precisely this reason,” Ghebreyesus said.

“Flare-ups are expected at the tail-end of Ebola outbreaks,” according to a WHO statement.

The Ebola response efforts are also complicated by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic.

“Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds challenges, we will continue this joint effort until we can declare the end of this Ebola outbreak together,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, low- and middle-income countries face unique challenges in terms of health care infrastructure and existing burden of endemic diseases.

Investigators from the WHO recently measured global outbreak preparedness, finding that 21 of the 47 African Region countries and 5 of the 23 countries in the Western Pacific Region had low operational readiness.
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