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Ebola Outbreak Over in DR Congo

After a 5-month long relief response by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Democratic Republic of Congo government has declared that the recent Ebola virus outbreak is over. WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus happily tweeted that togetherness can help us overcome any health challenge. The latest outbreak started in early June, 130 Ebola cases were registered and 55 fatalities.

Controlling the Outbreak by Vaccination

The objective of the response was to mitigate the spread and provide immediate vaccinations. The risk of COVID-19 was also lingering. More than 40,000 people were vaccinated. The Ebola vaccines need to be stored at super-cold temperature. WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti applauded the efforts of the healthcare workers and WHO saying that controlling the world's most fatal pathogen in a very remote area was difficult. When science and solidarity come together, nothing is impossible.

Ebola and COVID-19

The technology and equipment which were used to store the Ebola virus vaccine would be used to store the COVID-19 vaccine later on. Controlling Ebola spread while the COVID-19 pandemic was still on was a challenge. The viruses are transferrable, viz an Ebola patient can become COVID-positive and a COVID patient can become Ebola-positive. Both the viruses are fatal and in some places, the fatality of Ebola is over 80%. This reason is sufficient for devising an emergency preparedness plan.

The basic response plan is the same for both viruses. Finding, isolating, testing and treatment, and contact tracing. Special ARKTEK Freezers were used to store the vaccines, which can be used even without electricity. Hence it was easy to vaccinate all the locals even in areas where access to electricity wasn't available.

This was the 11th Ebola outbreak in DRC and the situation was worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The Ebola virus, this time, even spread to remote areas in dense rainforests. The response teams were sent to locations using boats, and helicopters. There were limited communication facilities and the response was hindered due to the strike by some healthcare workers regarding pay.

Funding Deficiency

The international funding for Ebola was very less, which forced WHO to turn to emergency funds. The outbreak began when DRC had almost eradicated the virus in the 2-year-long battle, which was the world's 2nd deadliest outbreak, which killed 2,280 people. David McLachlan-Karr, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC, congratulated the government and healthcare partners for their support. He also showed gratitude towards the neighbouring country Republic of Congo for its cooperation during a hard time. Mr McLachlan-Karr also said the DRC's government should try to predict such kinds of outbreaks in near future and keep response teams ready in case of emergencies.

The first Ebola outbreak was discovered in 1976, and the worst outbreak in history happened in 2014-2016. Highly effective vaccines and several other treatments are now available for the Ebola virus. Learn about the Ebola virus here-

Children Highly Vulnerable

UNICEF's Representative in DRC, Edouard Beigbeder, reiterated that though the outbreak is over, the children are largely affected by the Ebola virus epidemic. UNICEF is providing psychological and physical support to children whose parents have fallen sick or died due to Ebola. Such supports are extremely important since children are vulnerable to isolation, stigma, and malnutrition. UNICEF said they will continue to provide such support to kids all around the world and provide even more effective support in the future.

Source: WHO

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