The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday announced the end of the second-largest Ebola outbreak on record after nearly two years and more than 2,200 deaths, reported Reuters.
The Ebola epidemic erupted in the east of the country in August 2018. The worst-hit area was DRC’s North Kivu, a province battered by armed rebellion and ethnic violence.
On Thursday, the DRC Health Minister Eteni Longondo said the outbreak was “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the 60-year history of the DRC. It has only been surpassed by the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa that killed 11,300 people mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The announcement was made despite the fact that a separate flare-up of the virus is still prevalent on the other side of the country. On June 1, a new outbreak was announced in the country’s northwest. The latest outbreak has seen up to 24 cases so far, including 13 deaths. Congo has suffered 11 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976, more than double any other country.
Notably, there has to be no new cases reported for 42 days for an outbreak to be officially declared over. The DRC eastern outbreak was only three days from being declared over in April when a new case was reported.
“#Ebola outbreak in #DRC is OVER! WHO congratulates all those involved in this tough and often dangerous work to end the almost 2-year long outbreak,” the World Health Organization said on Twitter.
In July 2019, the WHO had declared the epidemic in the eastern DRC as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a move that steps up international support, given the epicentre’s close proximity to neighboring countries- Rwanda and Uganda.
“It wasn’t easy and at times it seemed like mission impossible,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa regional director.