WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on April 14 that he would maintain the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). His announcement followed three new confirmed cases in the troubled region, where an outbreak that began in August 2018 has infected over 3,400 people and killed 2,242.
The second-largest Ebola outbreak on record was two days away from meeting WHO criteria for declaring the end of the outbreak when the first new case surfaced. The criteria call for 42 days with no new confirmed or probable cases—twice the maximum incubation period for the disease. Flare-ups near the end of an outbreak are sufficiently common—owing in part to the virus’s persistence in used needles or vials for weeks and in survivors’ body fluids for months—that a WHO official cautioned in March that new occurrences were “likely.”
WHO has supported a DRC Ebola response that has included 11 testing labs, 11 treatment centers, the registration of 250,000 contacts of infected people, and the vaccination of 300,000. The Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in the DRC—in a statement supporting a continued PHEIC—said WHO has not received adequate Ebola funding this year and that its response is further threatened by transportation limitations and other consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.