In a promising development in the former Ebola hot spot of Beni, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today announced that a full Ebola incubation period—21 days—have passed without any new cases.
The announcement came as the country's health ministry reported four new cases from the current epicenters, Katwa and Butembo.
Beni news comes with caution about reintroduction risk
In its statement today, the health ministry called the situation in Beni a "major breakthrough," following a peak in cases that occurred there between September and November.
As Ebola raged in Beni during those months, the city was not only the setting for clashes with armed rebel groups, resulting in community protests that temporarily brought the Ebola outbreak response to a halt. As with some other locations, responders in Beni have also grappled with community resistance to actions such as case finding, contact tracing, and vaccination.
The achievement means Ebola activity in Beni is currently under control, and it added that five other health zones have also gone more than 21 days without reporting any new confirmed Ebola cases. They are Kayina, Mandima, Musienene, Nyankunde, and Tchomia.
However, Beni is still at risk of Ebola reintroduction, given frequent travel between Beni and the current hotspots of Katwa and Butembo, which over the past 21 days have reported 92 confirmed cases, the ministry said.
Latest cases push total to 844
Of the four new cases the health ministry reported today, three are from Katwa and one is from Butembo. Katwa is located on the eastern outskirts of Butembo. The cases boost the outbreak total to 844 cases, 779 of them confirmed and 65 listed as probable.
Also, health officials are still investigating 196 suspected cases.
Two more people died from their Ebola infections, both of them individuals from Katwa who died in the community, a factor known to increase the risk of transmission, since the virus can spread easily when patients are at their sickest and when their caregivers aren't protected.
Feb 19 DRC update