In a recent virtual press conference, World Health Organization (WHO) experts connected to discuss the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, providing an update on the current situation.
Dr Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director for Health Emergencies, explained that since the last meeting, the number of cases has surpassed 2,000; with a total of 2,025 cases, including 1,357 deaths and 552 survivors. He said that although numbers appear to have stabilised and even fallen in the past two weeks, there is still substantial transmission in a number of health zones, including Butembo and Mabalako. Yet, there has been a significant decrease in Katwa, which was the epicenter of the outbreak around six weeks ago. “So, on the one hand, we see improvements or decreases in transmission, and on the other hand, we see areas in which we have seen sustained transmission,” he stated.
He said that surveillance has intensified, with around 15,000 people being tracked every day (reduced from 20,000 one week prior), which he highlighted represents ‘a huge logistics and security challenge’. Dr Ryan also underlined the complexity of transmission dynamics: “One-fifth of cases seek healthcare in another health zone entirely before they’re detected, which means one-fifth of cases are moving not only out of a health area, but moving out of an entire health zone, and are very often presenting for the first time in a health facility that’s very far away from where they actually live, so it’s quite difficult to make the connections between transmission chains when you have that sort of movement.”
On a positive note, Dr Ryan conceded that although there is a need to be ‘exceptionally cautious’, it is also important to have hope that the measures that have been put in place over the past six weeks and before are beginning to bear fruit. “We need to work very, very hard over the coming weeks to ensure that any gains we are making are sustained and we need to be very aware that this virus will exploit any opportunity that it gets to increase transmission.”