Tenth Ebola outbreak declared over in northeast DRC

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared their tenth outbreak of Ebola on 1 August 2018. The outbreak was centred in the northeast of the country, in North Kivu and Ituri provinces; cases had also been reported in South Kivu. With the number of cases having surpassed 3,000, it is by far the country's largest-ever Ebola outbreak. It is also the second-biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, behind the West Africa outbreak of 2014-2016.

During the first eight months of the epidemic, until March 2019, more than 1,000 cases of Ebola were reported in the affected region. However, between April and June 2019, this number doubled, with a further 1,000 new cases reported in just those three months. Between early June 2019 and the beginning of August, the number of new cases notified per week was high, and averaged between 75 and 100 each week.

At the peak of the outbreak, identifying and monitoring contacts was a significant challenge, with 40 per cent of new Ebola cases having never registered as contacts. Reasons include the movement of people (such as in the case of motorbike taxi drivers), to downright fear in some communities which hinders engagement. In addition, new Ebola patients were confirmed and isolated with an average delay of five days after showing symptoms, during which time they were both infectious to others and missed the benefit of receiving early treatments with a higher chance of survival.

The number of new cases then started slowly declining for the rest of the year. In 2020, the number of cases recorded per week declined dramatically, with just a handful of cases recorded throughout January and February. However, on 10 April 2020 - just three days before the outbreak was expected to be declared over - a new case was recorded in Beni. Six further cases had been recorded in the same area; four people died.

The last Ebola patient was discharged from the Beni Ebola treatment centre (ETC) on 14 May; after recording no new cases for 42 consecutive days - twice the length of the disease's incubation period of 21 days - the DRC Minister of Health declared the outbreak in the northeast over on 25 June 2020.

During the tenth outbreak, 3,470 cases were recorded; 2,287 people sadly lost their lives.