The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it seems, has started turning the tide against the Ebola outbreak that was declared in August 2018.
On Tuesday, the last Ebola patient was released from a treatment centre in Beni. The city, in the Kivu region, is the epicentre of the current Ebola outbreak.
It means that, right now, there are no cases of Ebola in the DRC — while it’s reportedly been 14 days since a new case was confirmed.
It’s a massive milestone in the country’s fight against the virus, with the news being shared by the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office for Africa through a social media video.
The video shows a patient identified as Masiko leaving the treatment centre.
An emotional day in #Beni#DRC as Masiko, the last #Ebola patient in DRC leaves the Ebola treatment centre in #Beni! Our @WHO team was delighted to share this victory with Masiko, @MinSanteRDC, our partners, & the people of Beni. pic.twitter.com/2OQ1N14x1e— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) March 3, 2020
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said in a statement: “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.”
Moeti said, however, that the outbreak is far from being contained. “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,” she added.
ABC News reports that 46 people who had come into contact with Masiko are still being monitored and, WHO officials added, all the aspects of the Ebola response remain in place to ensure that any new cases are detected quickly and treated.
The current outbreak is the second biggest ever to hit the central African country. It’s the DRC’s 10th outbreak, and the second-worst globally following the virus’s outbreak in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 — which killed over 11,300 people.
Voluntary isolation is a strategy adopted by @WHO & @MinSanteRDC to help trace & monitor people who are at high risk of #Ebola in #DRC.— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) March 5, 2020
After the 21 day monitoring period, negative contacts return to their communities knowing that they are safe & have helped protect others. pic.twitter.com/2U5eq1VSDO
The WHO says, to date, the current outbreak has had 3,444 confirmed cases of Ebola — leading to 2,264 deaths.
The WHO added that health teams are still monitoring the virus through measures that include supporting quick responses to suspected infections, and working with communities to report suspected cases.
News of Masika’s discharge comes a few weeks after WHO announced that four African countries have been given the green light to licence an Ebola vaccine.
This means that the vaccine can now be administered without first undergoing clinical trials. The vaccine was found to be effective in 97.5% of cases it was tested on.
Despite these milestones, the WHO says the end of the outbreak can only be declared when there haven’t been any new infections for 42 days after the last reported case tests negative.
However, Dr. Jean-Christophe Shako, a Congolese epidemiologist who heads a local Ebola response team, told ABC News in a text message that the end is near.
He said: "We are at the end of Ebola."