Congo reports new Ebola case amid coronavirus pandemic

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Just three days before Democratic Republic of the Congo planned to declare an end to the second-worst Ebola outbreak in modern history, public health officials say they have identified a new case.

The World Health Organization (WHO) made the announcement on Friday, stating that the new case was confirmed in Beni, a town at the heart of the epidemic in eastern DRC. The Ebola patient died on Thursday morning in a hospital after showing symptoms several days earlier.

 “After 52 days without a case, surveillance & response teams on the ground have confirmed a new case. We have been preparing for and expecting more cases”, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted. 

“Unfortunately, this means the government of DRC will not be able to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak on Monday, as hoped. But WHO remains on the ground and committed as ever to working with the government, affected communities and our partners to end the outbreak.”

“Preliminary information shows that he is a 26-year-old man in Beni territory,” the multisectoral committee for the response to the epidemic said in a statement.

“Our teams, in collaboration with the WHO, are already on the ground to deepen the investigations and implement public health actions.”

The Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 2,260 lives. The current outbreak declared in August 2018 has occurred in especially challenging conditions amid deadly rebel attacks, community suspicion and some of the world’s weakest infrastructure in remote areas. Some Ebola responders have been attacked and killed.

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The new case of the deadly disease was confirmed 52 days after the last case was recorded. Until Friday, no new cases had been registered since February 17.

The country had been hoping to end one global health emergency, as it braces for another – the arrival of the new coronavirus that has swept the globe.

“We’ll just have to go for another 42 days, or the required period of time without a case for the Ebola outbreak to be declared over”, said Mike Ryan, the emergencies chief for the WHO.”

“Maybe that’s our lesson for COVID-19: There is no exit strategy until you’re in control of the situation,” he added.

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“This is a devastating development for the communities in eastern (Congo) who are also under threat from the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to ongoing conflict and displacement,” Kate Moger, a regional vice president with the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.

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