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Health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced on Tuesday that the nation’s Ebola outbreak has officially ended.
At least for now. Health experts worry that the dangerous virus, which can lurk in places in the body like the brain, eyes or in men’s semen, might be sexually transmitted or spread in other ways down the line.
The nation’s last new case of Ebola was reported 42 days ago. That length of time is considered the benchmark for whether an outbreak is finished because it’s as long as two of the virus’ incubation periods. (Ebola can take up to 21 days to start showing symptoms.)
But Congo isn’t fully out of the danger zone yet. Future transmissions from survivors looms as a constant danger. One woman who survived the virus in the massive 2014 outbreak in Liberia, for instance, is believed to have since spread Ebola to her family. Medical officials guess that after she gave birth to a new baby in the fall of 2015, her immune system, weakened by the pregnancy, allowed for the lingering virus to re-emerge in her body. It then spread to her two older sons and her husband.
“We don’t want there to be a sense of complacency with people thinking that just because the outbreak is over, there’s nothing more to be done,” Dr. Emily Kainne Dokubo, who led the US Centers for Disease Control’s Ebola response in Liberia, told NBC News. “There is a risk of viral persistence and people should seek care immediately so that we can pick up any suspicious cases right away and stop a larger outbreak.”
Featured image by Moeletsi Mabe/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images.
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