New Ebola Death in DRC Eight Months After Outbreak Declared Over

THE Democratic Republic of the Congo has reported a new Ebola death in the country’s east, where an outbreak was declared over last June.

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The victim was the wife of an Ebola survivor. She had sought treatment in a local health centre in Butembo, a city in North Kivu province.

The World Health Organisation said in a statement it was not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak. It said that more than 70 contacts of the woman had already been identified, and sites she visited were being disinfected.

Samples from the Ebola victim have been sent to the National Institute of Biomedical Research’s main laboratory in Kinshasa, where genome sequencing will identify which Ebola strain she had and whether it was linked to the previous outbreak.

The virus has been shown to be present in the semen of survivors for more than two years after infection.

Butembo was one of the epicentres of the second-largest Ebola outbreak ever, which killed at least 2,299 people out of 3,481 cases, between 2018 and 2020.

It was the tenth Ebola outbreak in the DRC and the first to occur in an active conflict zone, which made the response particularly challenging.

The aid response there was also beset with scandals. One investigation, by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, found that more than 50 women accused humanitarian workers involved in the Ebola response of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Another review, carried out by aid consultancy Adam Smith International, and supported by the UK Department for International Development, alleged widespread corruption and misuse of funding.

Unlike in the 2014-2016 outbreak in west Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people, a vaccine was readily available in the 2018-2020 epidemic and given to more than 300,000 people, while new treatments proved effective in saving lives of people who were already infected.

An 11th outbreak, in another part of the DRC, was declared over in November, following 130 confirmed cases, including 55 deaths.

Last month the UN announced that a global Ebola vaccine stockpile had been established to help control future epidemics. It is being stored in Switzerland.

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