WHO has declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to the world health agency, four people died and another four were infected but survived the outbreak, which occurred in a hard-to-reach area of Bas-Uélé province about 800 miles from the capital of Kinshasa.
WHO said the infections of five patients were confirmed by laboratory tests and that a total of 583 contacts were registered and closely monitored during the outbreak, but that none developed Ebola.
It was the DRC’s eighth Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered near the country’s Ebola River in 1976. The country’s experience fighting Ebola, and the remoteness of the outbreak in an area with just 12 miles of paved roads, were seen as indications that the outbreak could be contained.
The declaration that the outbreak was over came 42 days — or two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus — after the last confirmed patient tested negative for the disease a second time, WHO said.
“With the end of this epidemic, DRC has once again proved to the world that we can control the very deadly Ebola virus if we respond early in a coordinated and efficient way,” the new WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said in a statement.
The outbreak was the first time an Ebola vaccine was available to help prevent the spread of the disease. An official told Infectious Disease News in June that health authorities in the DRC had taken the necessary step to use the experimental vaccine to contain the outbreak, but that it would be shipped and used only if the disease spread beyond known contacts.
WHO, which was criticized as being slow to react to the West African Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people, said that an effective response to the outbreak in the DRC “was achieved through the timely alert by local authorities of suspect cases, immediate testing of blood samples due to strengthened national laboratory capacity, the early announcement of the outbreak by the government, rapid response activities by local and national health authorities with the robust support of international partners and speedy access to flexible funding.”
“I urge that we now focus all our efforts on strengthening the health system in Bas-Uélé province, which has been stressed by the outbreak. Without strengthening the health system, effective surveillance is not possible,” Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, the DRC’s minister of health, said in a statement.
In a statement, the CDC said stopping the outbreak in less than 2 months “highlights what is possible when countries are prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks.” The U.S. agency said nine disease detectives from the DRC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program — which is modeled after the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) — responded early in the outbreak. The CDC sent three of its own disease detectives and rapid diagnostics to aid in stopping the outbreak. – by Gerard Gallagher
Tedros is the WHO director-general. Kalenga lead the DRC’s ministry of health.