The Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eteni Longondo, confirmed this Wednesday the end of the Ebola outbreak declared on June 1 in the northwest of the country.
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declares the end of the second most serious Ebola outbreak in history
This epidemic, which has affected the province of Ecuador and is the eleventh of this virus that the country suffers, has caused 130 cases (119 confirmed and 11 probable), 55 deaths and 75 infections that were cured, as reported by the regional office for Africa from the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement.
“This eleventh epidemic of the Ebola virus disease had the particularity of spreading much more to the sanitary areas of rivers and lakes,” Longondo explained at a press conference in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, quoted by local media.
“This constituted a great logistical challenge in terms of developing response activities in a health system already weakened by previous epidemics and by weak community participation in health recommendations,” added the minister.
The outbreak was terminated after 42 days had elapsed since the last positive patient tested negative for the first time and no new positive cases have appeared since then, criteria for declaring the conclusion of these outbreaks.
“Overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hard-to-reach communities shows what is possible when science and solidarity come together,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
More than 40,000 high-risk people were inoculated by vaccinators who used innovative cold chain storage to keep the Ebola vaccine at temperatures so low that it reached minus 80 degrees Celsius. ARKTEK freezers, which can keep vaccines at very low temperatures for up to a week, allowed specialists to vaccinate people in communities without electricity in Ecuador, according to the WHO.
“The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at extremely cold temperatures will be useful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa,” Moeti stressed. “Tackling Ebola in parallel with COVID-19 has not been easy, but much of the experience we have gained from one disease can be transferred to another and underscores the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and local capacity building “added the Botswana doctor.
The province of Ecuador already suffered the ninth outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country between May and July 2018, when 54 cases were registered, including 33 deaths and 21 survivors.
Congolese authorities declared last June 25 the end of the tenth epidemic, that devastated three provinces in the northeast of the country (North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri) since August 1, 2018, with a result of 3,463 cases, 2,280 deaths and 1,171 survivors, according to the latest figures issued by the WHO.
This epidemic was the worst in the country’s history and the second most serious in the world, after the one that devastated West Africa from 2014 to 2016, in which 11,300 people died and there were more than 28,500 cases, although those figures – according to WHO – may be higher. It had been two very difficult years for the population of the affected area and the medical personnel, who suffered hundreds of attacks. The complex context, since it was the first outbreak that has occurred in an area with active conflict, hampered the response in all these months.
The eleventh outbreak “was very different from its predecessor: it progressed at low intensity, generated small outbreaks in isolated areas and was characterized, above all, by having a lower mortality rate,” said Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in a statement. .
Dr. Guyguy Manangama, MSF responsible for the response to the Ebola epidemic in the province of Ecuador, explained that this lower fatality could be due to the existence of “some type of natural immunity among people in the province of Ecuador, and that this region has experienced Ebola outbreaks before, “although he stressed that this is only hypothesis and further analysis is needed. He also pointed to scientific progress made in recent years, including the ability to use a vaccine and curative treatments that have been shown to be effective in clinical trials conducted during the previous outbreak in North Kivu.
“This deadly virus is finally beginning to look like a very serious but treatable disease, and even preventable to some extent through vaccination, rather than a biological threat,” says the MSF official.
The Ebola disease, discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976 – then called Zaire – is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals. This fever causes severe bleeding and can reach a 90% mortality rate. Its first symptoms are a sudden, high fever, severe weakness, and muscle, head, and throat pain, as well as vomiting.