Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was officially over. The announcement was made after 42 days (two, 3-week incubation periods) had passed from the last confirmed case.
"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," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO Director-General, in statement.
This was the DRC's eighth Ebola outbreak since 1976.
Four people died during the outbreak, and another four were infected with the deadly hemorrhagic disease, making the final case-fatality rate 50%. Five of the patients had laboratory confirmation of Ebola virus. A total of 583 contacts were registered and followed over the last 8 weeks, but none developed signs of Ebola virus disease (EVD).
Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, the country's minister of health said, "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."
Remote location limited the outbreak
The WHO was first notified of a cluster of suspicious illnesses on May 11. All cases were contained in the Likati Health Zone, Bas-Uélé province, a remote area of northern DRC. The location helped contain the outbreak, even though it made it more difficult for medical responders to set up satellite clinics during the outbreak.
The first identified patient was a man who took a motorcycle taxi to a health clinic on April 22. The man died en route to the clinic, and the motorcycle driver and another contact eventually were diagnosed as having EVD.
Despite being approved by regulatory committees in the DRC, ring vaccination with the unlicensed Ebola vaccine was not employed during this outbreak.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday commended the DRC for its hard work in stopping the outbreak over the course of 2 months. "This highlights what is possible when countries are prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks."
Jul 2 WHO announcement
Jul 2 CDC statement
May 16 CIDRAP News story, "WHO notes 19 suspected Ebola cases in the DRC"