The last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was discharged on Tuesday from a treatment centre in the north-eastern town of Beni.
The good news was disclosed in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES by the World Health Organisation, Africa region.
The patient, Masiko, was discharged from the Ebola facility in an emotional ceremony. The country has been battling the scourge for over a year.
The milestone comes as more countries increasingly report cases of coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, late last year.
To date, over 73 countries including Nigeria have been affected by the new coronavirus. Fortunately, DRC is one of the countries yet to report any case of the disease.
With no more new confirmed Ebola cases in the country for some time now, the world has begun a 42-day countdown to declaring the end of the epidemic. The countdown began on March 2.
If at the end of the 42 days there are no new confirmed cases, the UN health agency would declare the world’s second-deadliest Ebola epidemic over.
The Ebola outbreak is the 10th experienced by the country and the second-worst globally after the 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa.
As of March 1, there were 3,444 confirmed and probable cases and 2,264 deaths. Currently, 46 people who had come in contact with the last patient are still being monitored.
Meanwhile, WHO said all the aspects of the Ebola response remain in place to ensure that any new cases are detected quickly and treated.
Although the patient has been allowed to leave, the UN officials said they are “cautiously optimistic” that the epidemic in the northeast DRC will soon be history as the country gears up to face the emerging threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Meanwhile, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a tweet on her twitter handle @MoetiTshidi, that there are currently zero cases of Ebola in DRC after over a year of fighting this outbreak.
She also shared in her tweet a video of Masiko leaving the facility to the cheers of a waiting crowd.
“I am so proud of all involved in the response. We are hopeful, yet cautiously optimistic that we will soon bring this outbreak to an end.”
Ms Moeti also appreciated the tireless efforts by the health response team during the course of the outbreak.
The current epidemic started on August 1, 2018, and was declared a public health emergency of international concern on July 17, 2019.
This is the highest level of public health alert that can be conferred on a disease.
The sporadic spread of the Ebola outbreak was similar to the ongoing coronavirus. The difference was that most of the cases were reported within the DRC borders.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, had in February said the world “should not yet take its eyes off DRC despite the new coronavirus outbreak in China which had pushed news of Ebola off the headlines”.
He said consistent surveillance, pathogen detection and clinical management are still ongoing.
This, he said, includes validating alerts, monitoring the remaining contacts, supporting rapid diagnostics of suspected cases and working with community members to strengthen surveillance on the communities.