Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
An emergency committee convened by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, met for a fifth time to review the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, and determined that the outbreak still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, or PHEIC.
“This outbreak remains a complex and dangerous outbreak,” Tedros said. “We need the full force of all partners to bring this outbreak under control and meet the needs of the people affected.”
The outbreak, which has been ongoing in an area of conflict in northeastern DRC since August 2018, has left 3,233 people infected and 2,157 dead. The PHEIC was initially declared on July 17 when the emergency committee met for the fourth time following confirmed cases in neighboring Uganda and the city of Goma. At the time, Tedros called the Goma case a “game-changer” in the outbreak.
Following the declaration, temporary recommendations were put in place to prevent further spread and interference with international traffic, including improving community awareness, engagement and participation in preventive and preparation strategies; continuing cross-border screenings to ensure no contacts are missed; enhancing coordination with the United Nations and other partners; and strengthening surveillance and measures to prevent nosocomial infections.
Almost 240,000 people in the DRC have been vaccinated against Ebola.
Source: World Bank/Vincent Tremeau. (This work has not been changed and is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
At the time, WHO stated the regulations and PHEIC would be reviewed at least every 3 months.
Tedros said during the most recent news conference that since declaring the PHEIC, “impressive progress” has been made. Weekly case counts have decreased each week for the last 4 weeks, falling from 100-plus cases to around 15. Additionally, the outbreak has been contained in former hotspots like Beni, and further transmission has been stopped in Goma and Uganda.
Tedros also noted that several new vaccination strategies have been successfully implemented, which has resulted in doubling the existing vaccine supply. Overall, almost 240,000 people have been vaccinated.
“This encouraging trend should be celebrated with caution,” Tedros said. “Though the outbreak has been contained, it’s been contained in a rural, difficult-to-reach place.”
“Every case has the ability to spark a new and bigger outbreak,” he added.
According to WHO, the PHEIC status will remain in place for at least 3 more months until the emergency committee reconvenes again. – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosure: Tedros reports no relevant financial disclosures.