13th Ebola outbreak in DRC declared over

An Ebola outbreak that emerged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) east more than two months ago, infecting 11 people and killing six, has been declared over.

The DRC had announced its 13th outbreak of Ebola on October 8 in Beni, in North Kivu province, prompting fears of a repeat of a 2018-2020 epidemic that killed nearly 2,300 people in the same region, the second-highest toll recorded in the disease’s history.

On Thursday, the country’s health authorities declared the end of the latest outbreak – the second in 2021 – after no new cases were recorded since October 30, the end of a 42-day countdown or two incubation periods after the last confirmed case was discharged.

“My warm congratulations to health workers in the health zone of Beni who have suspended their strike movement to cope with this epidemic,” Health Minister, Jean-Jacques Mbungani, told an online news briefing.

The Ebola virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and is spread through contact with body fluids, was first discovered near the Ebola River in 1976.

Health authorities vaccinated more than 1,800 people using Merck’s recently licensed ERVEBO vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

“Stronger disease surveillance, community engagement, targeted vaccination and prompt response are making for more effective Ebola containment in the region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director.

“During this outbreak, the Democratic Republic of Congo was able to limit widespread infections and save lives. Crucial lessons are being learned and applied with every outbreak experience,” said Dr Moeti.

The WHO said its personnel were accompanied by a sexual health expert to help prevent inappropriate and abusive behaviour, following a damning report in September on a sexual assault scandal that has engulfed it and other aid agencies.

More than 80 aid workers, a quarter of whom were employed by the WHO, were involved in sexual abuse and exploitation during the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak.

In June, authorities in Guinea declared the end of an Ebola outbreak which had started in the country’s southeast in February, infecting 16 people and killing 12.

A devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016 killed 11,300 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. -Aljazeera

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