Health experts on Wednesday declared an end to the most recent Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo, some six months after the first cases were reported in Equateur Province in the country’s northwest.
The World Health Organization announced the waiting-period window, usually 42 days since the last confirmed case, had been met. All told there were 119 confirmed cases, another 11 probable cases, and 55 fatalities since the first case on June 1.
The summer Ebola outbreak came as DR Congo officials and their counterparts around the globe struggled with the COVID crisis. WHO officials say lessons learned in fighting Ebola, including the administration and storage of more than 40,000 doses of vaccine, will help experts protect people from COVID too.
“Overcoming one of the world’s most dangerous pathogens in remote and hard to access communities demonstrates what is possible when science and solidarity come together,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.
“The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa. Tackling Ebola in parallel with COVID-19 hasn’t been easy, but much of the expertise we’ve built in one disease is transferrable to another and underlines the importance of investing in emergency preparedness and building local capacity.”
Health workers in DR Congo used cold chain storage to keep Ebola vaccines at temperatures as low as minus 80 Celsius, a target level that’s a concern moving forward with the emerging COVID vaccines. The ARKTEK freezers they used can keep vaccines in the field for up to a week and make it possible to vaccinate people in locations without electricity.
Image: WHO file