For an outbreak to be declared over, there has to be a 42 day period where no new cases have been diagnosed. No fresh cases have been reported since April 27th, 2020 in Congo.
Ebola is a deadly viral haemorrhagic fever that causes high fever, muscle ache, sore throat and weakness. It quickly progresses to diarrhoea, vomiting, internal and external bleeding and eventually death. Death mostly occurs as a result of dehydration of multiple organ failure.
The World Health Organization lauded the effort of the medical community and co-operation of people. However, it also states the need for continued vigilance, strong surveillance and support systems to contain potential flare-ups in the months to come.
WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The outbreak took so much from all of us, especially from the people of DRC, but we came out of it with valuable lessons, and valuable tools. The world is now better-equipped to respond to Ebola. A vaccine has been licensed, and effective treatments identified. We should celebrate this moment, but we must resist complacency. Viruses do not take breaks. Ultimately, the best defence against any outbreak is investing in a stronger health system as the foundation for universal health coverage.”
The victory was achieved with the help of DRC Government, Ministry of Health and support by WHO, who trained thousands of health workers, registered around 250,000 contacts, tested 220,000 samples over a period of 22 months. Apart from this, the team provided people with equal access to advanced therapeutics and vaccinated over 330,000 people with the highly effective rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine.
The team was successfully able to contain the virus from spreading across the globe. This achievement also offers a motivation to address other health challenges like measles and COVID-19.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said, “During the almost two years we fought the Ebola virus, WHO and partners helped strengthen the capacity of local health authorities to manage outbreaks. The DRC is now better, smarter and faster at responding to Ebola and this is an enduring legacy which is supporting the response to COVID-19 and other outbreaks.”
The 10th outbreak is said to have been particularly challenging because of the decades of conflict with the eastern borders and its huge geographical span.Though the crisis in Eastern Congo seems to have ended, in north-west Congo the fight against Ebola is still on. The city of Mbandaka has reported several cases and 13 deaths since 1st June, 2020. This has been declared as the 11th outbreak, though the situation is said to be under control.
WHO continues to stress the importance of vigilance as new Ebola outbreaks are expected in the future.