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While the fourth deadliest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues — and still has the potential to explode domestically and beyond its border — there may be signs of a slowdown.

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

What's new: The DRC Ministry of Health announced Thursday that 9 people have been cured. As of Aug. 22, the total number of suspected cases topped 100, but only 13 people were being investigated. However, experts warn that it is too early to say if the outbreak has reached its peak.

"We're not out of the woods yet. ... You'll know when an outbreak has peaked when any new cases can be traced back to someone you already knew was infected."
— Julie E. Fischer, director, Elizabeth R. Griffin Program, Georgetown University Medical Center

"We'll know in a couple of weeks if the ring vaccination, positive communication [and experimental therapies] worked," Fischer tells Axios.

The problem with this particular outbreak, Fischer says, is the difficulty health care workers have in reaching possibly infected people in conflict areas. And, this is compounded by DRC's wide range of languages and cultural differences, leading to demand for multilingual medical workers who can negotiate the different local customs.

  • But, despite these obstacles, health officials from DRC, the World Health Organization and numerous other organizations have done a "great job" of hunting down possible infections, Fischer says. She points to WHO's statement that officials believe they have been able to trace 95% of infections.

What's happening now, according to releases from DRC's Ministry of Health Aug. 21-23:

  • DRC administered 2,613 experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccinations to those believed to have come into contact with infected persons or who are at the highest risk.
  • Beginning Aug. 11, health officials started distributing experimental treatment mAb114 to 10 patients, with positive results so far.
  • On Aug. 21, another experimental treatment, Remdesivir, was given to a patient in Beni's Ebola treatment center (CTE) and that person is "doing well," the ministry said.
  • DRC's Ethics Committee approved three other experimental treatments — Zmapp, favipiravir, and Regn3450-3471-3479, which will be distributed to the CTEs.

Editor's note: This piece was updated with the latest information from DRC's Ministry of Health, updating all the numbers and adding the 9 people cured.

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The big picture: Soup kitchens and charities, usually brimming with holiday volunteers, are getting far less help.

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Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
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  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.