A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in Beni, a city in the North Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization announced on Friday (April 10). The 26-year-old man died from the infection in the first Ebola case to have emerged after 52 days without a diagnosis, reports STAT. DRC was expected to declare the end of the outbreak today, but the new diagnosis puts that declaration on hold.
“I am so sad,” WHO epidemiologist Marie-Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire tells Nature. “I expected a sporadic case earlier, but not two days before the end.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, stated during a briefing that the DRC government would not be able to “declare an end to the outbreak on Monday as was hoped,” but that “WHO and all partners remain on the ground and committed as ever to working with the government . . . to end the outbreak,” according to STAT.
Over the weekend, another case emerged: an 11-month-old girl who was treated at the same health center as the first patient also died of Ebola, Al Jazeera reports.
There have been 3,456 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola and 2,276 resulting deaths as of April 10, 2020, according to the WHO. The outbreak in DRC began in August 2018 and has been particularly complex due to political instability and ongoing wars in the region, where armed groups have injured both responders and people suffering from the disease. The virus’s spread appeared to have slowed this January, and before these last two cases, the most recent diagnosis had occurred on February 17. No new cases had emerged among more than 2,000 people who had been tested during the following 40 days, reports Nature.
Today (April 13) would have marked 42 days since the last survivor had been cleared of the infection, the point at which two incubation periods of the disease would have passed and the outbreak could have been reasonably declared over, reports STAT.
The WHO has identified 215 people who came into contact with Friday’s victim, a number that includes 53 health care workers, all but one of whom had been vaccinated, according to Al Jazeera.
“We take thousands of samples every single week,” says Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies committee, in remarks to STAT. “And we will continue that active surveillance right the way through. It’s a testament to the strength and resilience of workers in North Kivu, to the local workers who continue to trace and track, continue to investigate, continue to report and continue to leave in place the infrastructure needed.”