Democratic Republic of Congo Declares Ebola Outbreak Over

Democratic Republic of Congo Declares Ebola Outbreak Over

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared its two month Ebola outbreak over in early July. Having initially reported the disease to the World Health Organization in May, the WHO immediately activated emergency protocols.

Children in Guinea get their feet disinfected in the West African Ebola outbreak of 2015. Source: The Atlantic/Reuters

Two major factors contributed to the short outbreak of the disease: location and a swift, coordinated response. The outbreak was in the remote and sparsely populated Likati region, located in equatorial rainforest 1,300 kilometers away from the capital city. The quick response to the disease was a direct result of lessons learned during the West Africa outbreak. After the 2015-2016 epidemic, the WHO set aside $41 million contingency fund for future emergencies. In the DRC, that money was used to rent helicopters to get supplies and personnel quickly to the region. UNICEF and WHO staffers trained local communities how to prevent the disease from spreading. The response will continue for the next three months, focusing on health systems strengthening and preparedness.

Ultimately the most recent Ebola outbreak in DRC was small, with only eight people infected, including four who died. Health officials decided the small number did not warrant the use of a potential Ebola vaccine, still in development, even though several hundred thousand doses had been stockpiled. The small outbreak may have been contained by geography and perhaps a little luck, but WHO officials point to the quick containment as successful disaster response and preparedness.

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