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  • A Congolese health worker administers ebola vaccine to a child at the Himbi Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019.

    A Congolese health worker administers ebola vaccine to a child at the Himbi Health Centre in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 February 2020

The virus has infected around 3,500 people and killed more than 2,300 of them since the outbreak was declared in August 2018.

The World Health Organization (WHO) extended its global emergency status for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo Wednesday but said the sharp decline in cases was "extremely positive."

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"As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic," WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The virus has infected 3,500 people and killed more than 2,300 of them since the outbreak was declared in August 2018. This epidemic has become the world's second-worst outbreak, say WHO officials.

However, Tedros on Tuesday said only three cases had been reported in the past week in the DRC. The health organization said it was downgrading the national and regional risk of the disease from very high to high, while it kept the global risk at low.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person. The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

Many people in the region still do not believe that Ebola is real and are dying at home, health workers explain, while the survival depends on seeking treatment directly as the symptoms start. 

Containing the spread of a virus whose contagion is extremely high has been a considerable challenge for the government and medical officials, partly because of the intense fights between rival militias in a region marked by conflicts and instability, and partly because of the communities’ mistrust.

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