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Last Patient Treated for Ebola in DRC has been Discharged – WHO

The country has been in the grip of an Ebola outbreak since August 2018. From 24 February to 1 March 2020, no new confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the WHO. The country’s dense tropical forests are considered a natural reservoir for the disease. Now the countdown towards declaring the end of the world’s second largest Ebola outbreak begins.

The patient’s release from a hospital in the eastern city of Beni on Tuesday. Beyond stopping the outbreak it is important to note that Ebola is now a preventable and curable disease.

The DRC has now gone 14 days without any new confirmed cases. The outbreak can be declared over once 42 days have passed without a new case – equivalent to two cycles of 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus.

The discharged patient, Semida Masika, said she was delighted to be headed home after receiving her survivor’s certificate.

“As I am the last survivor, I say thank you very much and praise be to God,” she said.

WHO Director-General Tedros hailed the developments as “very good news, not just for me, but for the whole world” at a briefing.

The UN-appointed coordinator for response efforts said he was stepping down to return to his job with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

However, a WHO spokesman cautioned the outbreak was not yet over, citing difficulties tracking cases in the eastern DRC, where militia violence is widespread.

Although the patient has been allowed to leave, 46 people who had come in contact with her are still being monitored.

“Because of the complex security environment, Ebola transmission outside of groups currently under monitoring cannot be ruled out,” said the spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic. “A single case could reignite the epidemic.”

The end of the outbreak can only be ascertained when no infections arise 42 days after the last reported case has tested negative.

“I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment centre healthy,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “It is not yet the end of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We must stay vigilant in the coming weeks and beyond.”

Even as caseloads declined last month and Ebola was overshadowed by the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world, the WHO said it continued to believe the outbreak constituted an international health emergency.

The DR Congo’s Ebola outbreak brought 3,444 confirmed and probable cases, and 2,264 fatalities, 474 of them in Beni. The community, which was rocked by armed-group attacks and violence during the outbreak, was second only to Katwa where 495 people died.

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