The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is still a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), a group of public health experts, advised the World Health Organisation on Tuesday.
The group reportedly made the submission as the world combats the coronavirus pandemic which is another outbreak that recently attained the PHEIC status.
As of time of reporting, DRC has recorded 60 cases of COVID-19, which has infected nearly 2 million people globally.
PHEIC is the highest public health emergency alert that can be pronounced on an outbreak by the international health agency. This often comes when a disease is a risk to other states through the international spread.
WHO had earlier said its emergency committee would meet to discuss whether the Ebola outbreak in DRC still constitutes an international health emergency, after fresh cases were detected.
The meeting comes a day after DRC was expected to announce that the outbreak in the east of the country that began in August 2018 was over.
The experts, after the meeting, concluded that the outbreak is yet from being over.
Also, the Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said he has accepted the advice.
The epidemic which started in August 2018 has killed 2,276 people to date. For it to be declared over, there has to be no new case reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.
But this suffered a setback on Friday as a new case was reported just as the emergency committee sat to determine whether its declaration of the PHEIC could be lifted.
As of April 13, three confirmed cases, including two deaths, occurred in Beni city in the last four days
Since the onset of the outbreak, a total of 3,453 Ebola cases were reported from 29 health zones, including 3,310 confirmed and 143 probable cases of which 2,276 cases died.
WHO said the three cases were reported 40 days after the second negative test of the last previously confirmed patient.
“DRC, WHO, and partners are investigating the infection source, validating the reported alerts, and conducting public health measures for confirmed cases and contacts,” it said.
The agency said that ongoing challenges include: the low alert rate for suspected cases and deaths; community reticence in the context of the emerging cases; presence of armed groups in the affected health area; the unidentified source of infection for these patients; and the movement of contacts.
The agency noted that the current resurgence is unfortunate, “but not unexpected considering the human and animal reservoirs.”
It, however, said the rapid risk assessment is moderate at the national and regional levels, and low at the global level.
A vaccination team has been activated but the COVID-19 remains a potential challenge to effectively vaccinating the people in Benin for now.
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