D.R Congo—Congolese officials on Thursday announced an end to an Ebola outbreak that had killed at least six people since October in the latest health challenge confronting the country’s restive east.
Congo declared its 13th outbreak of the disease on Oct. 8 in Beni in the east of the country, 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.
The most recent outbreak erupted in North Kivu province, the same part of Congo where more than 2,200 people died during an earlier Ebola epidemic that began in 2018.
“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.
Congolese health workers had been able to “limit widespread infections and save lives,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said.
“Crucial lessons are being learned and applied with every outbreak experience,” she said.
The 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 (MRK.N) recently licensed ERVEBO vaccine, the World Health Organization said in a statement.
Research has shown that the first case from the latest outbreak “likely represented a new flare-up of the 2018–2020 Ebola outbreak due persistence of the virus in the community,” WHO said Thursday.
Scientists have previously documented Ebola survivors who inadvertently infected others long after they had recovered. For example, health officials have warned that the virus can persist in male survivors’ semen for more than a year.
According to WHO’s Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, 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,” she said.