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Expand chart
Data: Ministry of Health DRC; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Government officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced this week they will start the school year on time on Sept. 3, as the deadly Ebola outbreak seems to have lessened in intensity (see chart above) but worries linger especially as 3 community deaths were reported today.

What's new: The concern is particularly over the 3 people who apparently died outside of quarantined treatment centers, since the Ebola virus remains highly infectious after death. Plus, in the midst of handling Ebola, health officials continue to deal with an outbreak of a rarer type of polio, and have begun a vaccination campaign in areas not affected by Ebola, per Jessica Ilunga, spokesperson for DRC's Ministry of Health.

Ebola update: While the number of new cases of Ebola has lessened, Ilunga says they remain "vigilant." She says:

"An Ebola outbreak works by waves. We had the first wave of cases who were contaminated before or just after the declaration of the outbreak. But there is a potential second wave of cases which are the people who were contaminated by the first wave and are in their incubation period."
"Vaccination is the only effective method to quickly break the transmission chain. That’s why our teams have been working around the clock to identify contacts and contacts of contacts, and vaccinate them as quickly as possible. Over the next few days, many contacts will come out of the 21-day surveillance period and we’ll know to what extend we managed to break the transmission chain."

The decision to start school on time in the affected region containing 250 schools is partly due to the belief they may be in greater danger of contracting the disease by playing unsupervised in the community, Ilunga says. She adds:

"There is a greater risk of having kids contaminated at home or on the streets than at school where measures will be put in place to protect them against the virus. And if one child develop the disease, we will be able to identify him quickly and to give him the appropriate treatment. Furthermore, it will be also easier to identify contacts and vaccinate them."

The situation remains dire in the affected provinces, WHO says, partly due to "intense insecurity and a worsening humanitarian crisis, with over one million internally displaced people and a continuous movement of refugees to neighbouring countries... [DRC] is also experiencing multiple disease outbreaks, including circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2, cholera, measles, monkeypox, etc."

  • Ilunga says they've started a vaccination campaign for children 5 and under against the derived poliovirus that will focus on 16 at-risk provinces to try and eradicate the virus.
  • WHO officials have expressed concern that some areas will not receive needed vaccinations for polio and Ebola due to the conflict zones.

The school year plan: The government will teach the children how to conduct good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands with chlorinated water that will be provided at the schools. Directors and school teachers will receive training on Ebola, including prevention methods and measures to deal with suspicious signs of infection.

  • Besides training, UNICEF says it will distribute 500 laser thermometers (2/school) to monitor the health situation of children, install 1,500 hand-washing units (6/school) and distribute megaphones and prevention posters in every school.

Editor's note: This was updated with the latest Ebola data available.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump sues National Archives, Jan. 6 committee to block records request

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the National Archives from releasing White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing executive privilege.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in Trump's campaign to disrupt the committee's sweeping probe into the circumstances surrounding Jan. 6, including his actions and communications leading up to the Capitol attack.

UNC race conscious admissions process upheld by judge

Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can continue its race conscious admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could end up in the Supreme Court after the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vowed to appeal the judge's ruling that UNC didn't discriminate against against white and Asian American applicants in its policy that it said was designed to increase diversity.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.

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