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WHO Declares End of 2018 DRC Ebola Outbreak

After 42 days without any new confirmed cases, the ninth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is officially over.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the official end of the ninth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), today, July 24, 2018 (see tweet).

According to a statement issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 24, 2018, the final case count of Ebola infections in the DRC is 54, including 38 laboratory-confirmed cases and 16 probable cases in deceased individuals who could not be tested. A total of 33 of the 54 individuals died.

The protocol put in place in the DRC to declare the end of an Ebola outbreak is to wait 42 days following last possible exposure to a confirmed case, with no new confirmed cases occurring during the time period. On June 12, 2018 (42 days before today), the last surviving patient with a confirmed Ebola infection was discharged from a treatment center.

The outbreak of Ebola was officially declared on May 8, 2018 and involved 4 separate health zones across the country, including Mbandaka, an urban area with a population of over 1 million people. Mbandaka also is home to the Congo river which serves as a connecting body of water for many cities and countries. At the time, health officials were concerned that transport on the river could serve as a conduit to spread the virus to the neighboring cities; however, the swift action by the WHO and its partners ensured the virus was contained in the DRC.

“The outbreak was contained due to the tireless efforts of local teams, the support of partners, the generosity of donors, and the effective leadership of the [Democratic Republic of the Congo] Ministry of Health,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO Director-General in a statement issued by the WHO, “That kind of leadership, allied with strong collaboration between partners, saves lives.”

“WHO moved quickly and efficiently,” said Matshidiso Moeti, MsC, WHO Regional Director for Africa in the WHO statement, “We also demonstrated the tremendous capacity of the African region. More than three-quarters of the 360 people deployed to respond came from within the region. Dozens of experts from Guinea spent weeks leading Ebola vaccination efforts here, transferring expertise which will enable the DRC to mount an effective response both within its borders and beyond.”

Within 2 weeks of the beginning of the outbreak, it was announced by the WHO Africa that the DRC’s northwestern Equator Province would be receiving more than 7500 doses of an investigational Ebola virus vaccine, which has been found to protect against Ebola for up to 2 years. Health officials set up a ring vaccination campaign in order to vaccinate individuals who had come into contact with those who were already infected. Over 3330 individuals were vaccinated through the campaign including all contacts of confirmed Ebola patients, according to Médecins sans Frontières.

According to the WHO’s, the next steps will be developing a post-outbreak 90-day surveillance and response plan and preparing for the transition of resources from the outbreak to enhance response capacities for other ongoing health emergencies throughout the DRC. Additionally, the DRC Ministry of Health and WHO will conduct a review of the response with the objective of documenting key takeaways to prepare for future outbreaks.

“This effective response to Ebola should make the government and partners confident that other major outbreaks affecting the country, such as cholera and polio can also be tackled,” concluded Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the statement, “We must continue to work together, investing in strengthened preparedness and access to health care for the most vulnerable.”

Updated 7/25/2018 at 10:53 AM EDT to reflect updated case counts.