A new case of Ebola was reported in eastern DR Congo on Friday, just three days before a deadline that would have marked the official end to the long epidemic, the UN said.
“Unfortunately, this means the government of #DRC will not be able to declare an end to the #Ebola outbreak on Monday, as hoped,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said on Twitter.
The country’s health ministry said the case — the first recorded in 52 days — was a 26-year-old man.
“Our teams, in collaboration with the WHO, are already on the ground to carry out further investigations and implement health measures,” the ministry’s Ebola task force said in a statement.
A health official said the patient reportedly died in hospital early Thursday, several days after falling ill with Ebola symptoms.
The epidemic, the 10th in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s history, dates back to August 1, 2018.
According to the latest WHO toll, published on Twitter, 2,273 people have died, making it the second deadliest outbreak in the 44-year known history of the disease.
Health officials had been hoping to bring the curtain down on the epidemic on Monday, in line with guidelines based on the incubation period of the Ebola virus.
The announcement had also been seen as a potential boost for the campaign against coronavirus, which is largely being combatted on the same lines of tracing, isolating and quarantining people who have been in contact with patients.
The epidemic began on North Kivu province, on the border with Uganda, and spread to neighbouring Ituri and South Kivu.
The region is plagued by militias, and violence has proved to be a major encumbrance to stamping out the virus.
On the plus side, health officials say the use of unlicensed, but tested, vaccines has played a major part in rolling back the disease.