WHO emergency committee meets on Ebola after new DR Congo case

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 07, 2018 A health worker waits to handle a new unconfirmed Ebola patient at a newly build MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported Ebola treatment centre (ETC) in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo. – The counters are reset: the Democratic Republic of the Congo will have to wait at least another 42 days before proclaiming the end of the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, where a new case was registered on April 10, 2020, after 52 days of a respite which maintained the hope of an exit from the epidemic on April 13, 2020. (Photo by John WESSELS / AFP)

The WHO said its emergency committee would meet Tuesday to discuss whether the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still constitutes an international health emergency, after fresh cases were detected.

The meeting comes a day after DR Congo had been expected to announce that the outbreak in the east of the country that began in August 2018 was over.

The epidemic has killed 2,276 people to date. For it to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.

But as the World Health Organization’s emergency committee met last Friday to determine whether its declaration of a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern or PHEIC, could be lifted, a new case was reported.

“We now have three cases, two people who have died, one person who is alive,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in a virtual briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

She said that all of the contacts of those cases had been traced and vaccinated and were being followed closely.

DR Congo health authorities announced Friday that a 26-year-old man was listed as having died from the disease, and a young girl who was being treated in the same health centre passed away on Sunday.

Both died in the city of Beni, epicentre of the outbreak.

Due to the shifting situation, the WHO decided to reconvene its emergency committee to again evaluate whether or not the outbreak still constitutes an international health emergency, Harris said.

It was scheduled to announce its decision later Tuesday.

The DR Congo has meanwhile started a new 42-day countdown to declare an end to its 10th epidemic of the deadly haemorrhagic fever disease.

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