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Updated Apr 14, 2020

On April 10, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a new case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following more than seven weeks without a new case since the outbreak started in early 2018 and days before the country could have officially declared it over. The patient died, and three days later there was a second Ebola death. The new cases surfaced in Beni, the epicenter of this outbreak, a region that has been racked by violence perpetrated by rebel groups operating in the DRC and across the border in Uganda. This same city is where Congolese health workers celebrated what they believed to be the last case of the virus on March 3, after a patient confirmed to have had Ebola tested negative for the virus and was discharged from hospital.

Despite this setback, the fight against Ebola has not been in vain. Just a year prior, managing the outbreak seemed a Sisyphean task, beset not only by weak infrastructure, lack of funding, and misinformation but also attacks on Ebola treatment centers and health workers. WHO recorded 420 separate incidents since the outbreak began, resulting in 11 deaths and 86 injuries. But DRC medical professionals, WHO, and government officials have learned valuable lessons from Ebola that can be used for COVID-19 preparations. Conspiracies abound with COVID-19 as it did with Ebola, requiring health workers to come up with innovative solutions involving local engagement and public information campaigns to dispel dangerous rumors. Incorporating religious and community leaders helps to build trust, which is vital for efforts to curb the spread of the two diseases and the successful rollout out vaccines.

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