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Signs DR Congo Ebola outbreak finally 'on the retreat' but risk of international spread, 'still high'

"It's not over until it's over," said Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus, speaking to reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York, after a meeting co-hosted by the WHO and the DRC Government on the margins of the UN General Assembly, bringing together regional ministers. for health, on Ebola preparedness and response.

Latest figures show that more than 2,100 lives have been lost to haemorrhagic fever since August last year, with 57 new cases recorded in the week up to September 19; although about 1,000 have recovered from the disease, with more than 3,150 cases overall.

"The outbreak is happening in a complex situation where there is political instability and also insecurity," said Mr. Tedros. "While fighting Ebola in DRC we have to strengthen our preparedness in neighboring countries because the risk of spreading is still high".

He said the meeting had agreed to invest in neighboring nations not only to end the current outbreak, but also to help prevent epidemics in the future. Within the DRC, “we will strengthen the health system, because what will give us better outcomes for the future too… the commitment that was shown” during a meeting with ministers and partners, he added.

Responding to the criticism reportedly leveled at the WHO vaccination strategy by the DRC partner Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), that had been too limited and selective in scope so far, Mr. Tedros told reporters that "we learn almost every day, and adjust our response accordingly", adding that "be it vaccine use, other strategies we follow, we try and learn every day, and recalibrate our response on a regular basis. . "

Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States, was the first to speak to reporters at the stake, describing the outbreak as "the most complex Ebola outbreak in history" and said stopping it was one of President Donald Trump's top priorities.

The UN Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator, David Gressly, also summarized the meeting – listen below for an in-depth interview on the latest situation on the ground:

Speaking alongside DRC's health minister, the top US health official thanked President Felix Tshisekedi for attending the meeting, saying the "unique" circumstances of the outbreak meant he could not be stopped "without close and committed cooperation among all stakeholders".

"Thankfully, today's meeting underscored that we have that kind of on-going cooperation … Today's meeting should send a powerful message that health ministers here today will work closely and relentlessly until this outbreak is over."

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