On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, that the last patient being treated for Ebola in Congo was discharged bringing the 19-month-old outbreak closer than ever to an end. The patient’s release from a hospital in the eastern city of Beni was celebrated by the hospital staff who sang, danced and drummed on trash cans. This marks the first instance where there have been no active cases reported since the start of August 2018 when the outbreak was declared.
During that time, 2,264 people were killed and nearly 1,200 more people were infected, making this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history after the 2013-16 epidemic in West Africa which was deadlier, killing more than 11,000.
It has been 14 days without any new confirmed cases in Congo. After 42 days have passed without a new case — equivalent to two cycles of 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus, the outbreak can be declared over
At a briefing on Tuesday the director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the developments as “very good news, not just for me, but for the whole world,” while the United Nations-appointed co-ordinator for response efforts said he would be stepping down to return to his previous job with the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo.
However, Tarik Jasarevic who is a spokesperson for WHO cautioned that the outbreak might not be over yet, stating difficulties in tracking cases in eastern Congo, where there is a widespread of militia violence. Even though cases have declined in the last month and Ebola was overshadowed by the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, the WHO claimed that it continues to believe that the outbreak is an international health emergency.
This outbreak — Congo’s tenth since 1976 — came soon after another outbreak of a smaller range ended in another part of the country in 2018. Dense tropical forests of Congo are considered a natural reservoir for the disease. The patient released on Tuesday, after receiving her survivor’s certificate. Semida Masika said she was happy to be headed home.