There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since June 6.
Nearly 2 months after the declaration of the ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting progress, but the outbreak is not over just yet.
As of June 24, the WHO has reported a total of 55 cases of Ebola virus in the DRC, including 38 laboratory-confirmed cases, 14 probable cases in deceased patients, and 28 deaths from the disease, bringing the fatality rate to 54%. Cases were reported in the Equateur Province in the Iboko, Bikoro, and Wangata health zones. Since May 17, there have been no new cases in the Bikoro and Wangata health zones; the last confirmed-case in Iboko was confirmed on June 6. That individual died on June 9.
The number of contacts with infected individuals who required follow-up has decreased. The latest data indicate that a total of 1534 contacts have completed the mandatory 21-day follow-up period.
On June 12, the last patient in the Equateur Province survived after treatment Ebola and discharged from the treatment center, marking the beginning of the countdown towards the end of the outbreak, which requires 42 days (2, 21-day incubation periods.) Should there be no more confirmed cases of Ebola, the outbreak will be officially declared over by the Congolese health authorities on July 22, according to Médecins sans Frontières (MSF).
“The use of vaccination in this response to Ebola has undeniably helped to break the chain of transmission and contain the virus faster,” said DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, in a statement, “Since the start of the immunization micro plan on May 21, 3330 people have been vaccinated and immunized against the Ebola virus. So far, the results of the vaccination have been conclusive because none of the vaccinated people developed the disease nor experience major side effects."
Dr Oly Ilunga, has been pivotal in providing updates about the outbreak, through an email newsletter and on his Twitter profile (See tweet.)
MSF reports that along with the WHO, they have successfully completed the “ring vaccination” of all contacts of confirmed Ebola patients. If there are no new confirmed cases, MSF’s vaccination activities are scheduled to be completed on July 14.
In a new comment published in The Lancet, the Ebola Outbreak Epidemiology Team remarked on the importance of the vaccine in controlling this outbreak. “The epidemiology of the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has similar features to previous Ebola outbreak,” said the authors, “This similarity suggests that early detection of the outbreak… which are currently being implemented, along with the additional benefit of targeted vaccination, should be sufficient to control this outbreak.”
The Ministry of Health of DRC and other authorities including the WHO, will continue to monitor the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The focus of the response remains on intensive surveillance, including active case finding, investigation of suspected cases, and alerts and contact tracing.
The agencies plan to review the ongoing response later this month in order to guide reprogramming of interventions, including developing a 90-day response plan after the outbreak.
An earlier version of this article was published on June 4. As new information becomes available, Contagion® will continue to report on the outbreak to keep our readers up-to-date on the latest information as it becomes available.