New case of Ebola in DR Congo raises fears of another wave of outbreak in Africa

'We have been preparing for and expecting more cases,' WHO says amid fears of a second wave of Ebola infections in Africa.

A new case of the Ebola virus infection has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), just three days before the country was to declare the official end of the outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.

The alarming development came even as the world is struggling to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak that is rampantly spreading across the globe. The new case of the Ebola virus disease was confirmed in the north eastern city of Beni, WHO said in a statement on Friday, April 10.

Ebola Virus
Ebola Virus Wikimedia Commons

It was the first such report in 52 days, and came just three days before the WHO was set to declare the official end of the outbreak, which was planned for Monday. The Ebola outbreak, which started in August 2018, has claimed more than 2,260 lives, around two-thirds of the outbreak's reported infections and second to the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa (11,310 deaths).

Cases of the virus, which derives its name from the Ebola river in Congo, had started dwindling since January and the last positive diagnosis was on Feb. 17. In the days that followed, more than 2,000 people had been tested for Ebola, but no new cases had come to light, until now.

Fears of new Ebola wave in Africa

Beni had been the epicentre of the current Ebola outbreak, the second-deadliest in history, sparking fears over a new wave of infections in the region. Health officials believe more cases will crop up but have made vaccines available to fight one of the world's most notorious diseases. "We have been preparing for and expecting more cases," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Madagascar plague
Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola. Reuters

The new Ebola case means that the 42-day count-down to an official declaration of victory over the deadly virus must begin again. WHO has also scheduled a meeting with the Emergency Committee for next week "in order to re-evaluate their recommendations in light of this new information.

Healthcare professionals in Congo were nearly done with one global public health emergency but now they have to deal with two – Ebola and coronavirus. Beni has already reported two positive cases of COVID-19.

"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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