The 2018 Ebola outbreak is largely under control nearly 2 months after the first case was reported, according to a news release from the World Health Organization (WHO).1
On May 8, an Ebola outbreak was declared in the Bikoro region of Equateur Province in the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO, and other global public health organizations have been working with the DRC government to contain and suppress the Ebola virus.
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Many individuals will remember the 2014 outbreak that occurred in a different region of DRC and followed Americans home. However, officials say this outbreak is different in a few ways. For instance, the 2014 outbreak was more easily contained due to the remote area in which the outbreak started. The 2018 outbreak occurred in a more densely populated, urban area, which allowed the virus to spread more easily.
What else is different about this outbreak that has officials hopeful? Daniel P. Eiras, MD, MPH, who is the Director of Infection Control at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, New York, says “We do have a few new treatments in our arsenal that we didn’t have before. The main one is a new vaccine that’s based on the VSV (or vesicular stomatitis virus).”
Officials have been administering the vaccine to high-risk populations as a prevention measure as well as implementing new treatments, including favipiravir and ZMapp, to infected individuals.
“The hope is that with this new vaccine and these new treatment strategies that we’ll be able to decrease the number of people who become infected and be able to slow the outbreak before it reaches larger cities and becomes a much bigger issue,” Dr Eiras said.
Although reaching high-risk populations in rural areas of DRC poses a challenge to officials—largely because the vaccine needs to be refrigerated, and travelling great distances makes that difficult to maintain—many individuals in DRC are accepting the vaccination.
“The most recent number I’ve seen is that approximately 2000 people have been vaccinated already, and that’s an acceptance rate of about 75%,” Dr Eiras said. “In other words, 75% of the people offered the vaccine have agreed to receive it, which is quite good and hopefully is affecting the transmission rate.”
It seems as though these efforts have affected the transmission rate, with WHO reporting a containment of Ebola on June 22. The last known sufferer had died on June 9, and no new cases have been reported since then.
“What this outbreak has demonstrated for us is that Ebola hasn’t gone away,” Dr Eiras said. “In terms of its ability to affect rural populations, we will likely continue to see it—maybe not to the extent that we did in 2014 and 2015—but it’s an important disease that we will need to have constant vigilance for in the future.”
WHO and the DRC government will continue to monitor the situation but are hopeful that this is the end of the 2018 outbreak.
For more updates, visit Infectious Disease Consultant.
- Ebola virus disease – Democratic Republic of the Congo [press release]. World Health Organization; June 20, 2018. http://www.who.int/csr/don/20-june-2018-ebola-drc/en/. Accessed June 22, 2018.
Listen to our full interview with Dr Daniel Eiras here: