The Second-Deadliest Ebola Outbreak Is Finally Over

An electron microscopic image of the 1976 isolate of Ebola virus. CDC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak has officially ended. Following a 22-month battle involving thousands of aid workers, the 10th outbreak of Ebola virus has finally been stopped, with the last case occurring 47 days ago. The epidemic infected 3,470 people and took the lives of 2,000 people across the Democratic Republic of Congo after being declared in 2018.

"The outbreak took so much from all of us, especially from the people of DRC, but we came out of it with valuable lessons, and valuable tools. The world is now better-equipped to respond to Ebola. A vaccine has been licensed, and effective treatments identified,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press release.

“We should celebrate this moment, but we must resist complacency. Viruses do not take breaks. Ultimately, the best defense against any outbreak is investing in a stronger health system as the foundation for universal health coverage.”

This epidemic followed the devastating 2014-2016 epidemic, in which 11,000 people were killed by the Ebola virus. The 2014 outbreak was considered one of the most complex health emergencies ever recorded due to provincial instability at the time, and the hopes are that recent advances in Ebola prevention will help stop current and future outbreaks before that happens again.

First licensed Ebola vaccine

A researcher in 2005 extracts a 1918 pandemic virus in the hopes of aiding vaccine research. CDC

The news comes after the successful widespread deployment of the Ebola vaccine Ervebo, which was found to be extremely successful in preventing infection in 80 percent of patients and reducing the severity in the rest, according to Nature.

Developed by a company in New Jersey, the vaccine was given to over 300,000 people that had been in contact with Ebola patients. This vaccine was used together with two antibody-based drugs to anyone that wished to take them, which were also effective in reducing deaths.

This approach is a milestone in combatting Ebola outbreaks, as another begun on June 1st in Équateur (a region on the opposite side of the DRC) with 18 reported cases. Doctors deployed in the area hope to use similar methods to curb the new outbreak before it reaches epidemic status - although due to infrastructure, the WHO believes a response in Équateur might be more challenging.

Either way, in a time of Covid fears and pandemic it is comforting to know that Ebola may finally be prevented from ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

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