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Staff from South Sudan's Health Ministry carry out a dinsinfection excercise during a drill for Ebola preparedness in case the virus spreads from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 2019. Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the low number of new cases of Ebola reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — three in the past six days — the World Health Organization said Wednesday the outbreak should retain its global health emergency status.

The big picture: With the attention of a large portion of the world focused now on another official global health emergency, the spread of the novel coronavirus, there's a danger that much-needed focus and funding for the DRC may be lost at a perilous time as the country tries to stamp out this deadly outbreak once and for all.

"We decided to maintain a PHEIC [public health emergency of international concern] despite cautious optimism because we do see a risk of some resurgence and a risk of complacency."
— Robert Steffen, chair of WHO's emergency committee for Ebola, at press briefing

What's happening: As of Feb. 10, there's been a total of 3,431 confirmed and probable cases and 2,253 deaths (66%) since the outbreak started Aug. 1, 2018.

  • From Feb. 3–9, there were only three new confirmed cases, and those were registered as contacts, with two under surveillance. This means the chance they infected other people is lower than if they had not been a known contact.
  • The WHO downgraded the Ebola risk from very high to high in the DRC and the region.

Yes, but: There needs to be no new cases for double the incubation period, or 42 days, before the outbreak is determined to be over.

What they're saying: Stephen Morrison, SVP at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios, "The number of cases is down dramatically, and that's a good thing. ... But, there was chaos a short while ago and I'm skeptical it has been vanquished."

  • For instance, the ADF is responsible for a Feb. 8 attack that killed 13 and kidnapped around 20.
  • There's also rampant distrust in government and health care workers in the community, which will take a long time to overcome, Morrison points out.

What's next: The WHO says much work needs to be done to prevent and help the DRC with any future outbreaks, including constructing water access for health facilities and fostering vaccination for other diseases in circulation, like measles.

  • "Strengthening a health system may not be as sexy as responding to an outbreak, but it is equally important," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the briefing. Without a solid health care system, "Our greatest fear remains the damage this coronavirus could do in a country like DRC."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.