Accessibility links

Breaking News

Official End to Congo Ebola Outbreak Set for Wednesday


FILE - An aid worker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo gets vaccinated in Mbandaka, May 30, 2018.
FILE - An aid worker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo gets vaccinated in Mbandaka, May 30, 2018.

Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to declare the country Ebola-free this Wednesday.

A recent outbreak first detected in April in the northwestern part of the DRC killed 32 people; another 21 people were infected, but survived. However, it's been more than five weeks since a new case of the viral disease was identified in the country.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone infected more than 28,000 people, and killed 11,000.

Florent Del Pinto, the head of Congo's Ebola response team, said health workers used the lessons from the 2014 outbreak to contain this one.

"In West Africa, around 20 percent new contamination was due to unsafe burials, so we have been very active in ensuring all the suspected cases were benefited, dignified and safe burials to limit the risk of contamination," Del Pinto said. "Community engagement is also something very important to be able to sensitize the people on what is Ebola and how to prevent someone from getting Ebola and what should be done when signs and symptoms are detected."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has given an experimental vaccine to people who came in contact with those infected with the virus. The U.N. agency has vaccinated 3,330 people. The vaccinations were conducted by WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières teams.

Del Pinto warns the deadly virus could re-emerge.

"The challenges are important here because, first of all, its endemic, meaning that Ebola will reappear in the future here in DRC. So, one of the challenges is to get ready for the next one and try to increase our capacity, increase our readiness to be able to be ready when it comes," Del Pinto said.

The DRC has seen a total of nine Ebola outbreaks since the viral disease was first detected in Congo in 1976.

An earlier version of this story erroneously listed the number of WHO vaccinations.