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Congo declares end to Ebola outbreak that killed 55 people since emerging in June

The Democratic Republic of Congo today announced the end of an Ebola outbreak in the country that had killed 55 people since the first cases emerged in June.

The outbreak, which infected at least 130 people, came just as a separate two-year Ebola epidemic which had killed more than 2,000 people was brought to an end in the east of the country.    

The African country has also seen more than 11,000 cases of coronavirus and 320 deaths in the pandemic, but the health minister today declared the Ebola outbreak over.   

‘A heartfelt thank you to everyone who tirelessly tracked down cases, provided treatment and vaccinated people in often remote communities tucked away in dense rain forests,’ the WHO’s Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said today.  

The Democratic Republic of Congo today announced the end of an Ebola outbreak in the country (file photo, health workers move into a high-risk patient zone at an Ebola centre in North Kivu province)

The Democratic Republic of Congo today announced the end of an Ebola outbreak in the country (file photo, health workers move into a high-risk patient zone at an Ebola centre in North Kivu province) 

Congo has suffered 11 Ebola outbreaks, more than double any other country, and its equatorial forests are a natural reservoir for the virus.  

The virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with bodily fluids, was first discovered near Congo’s Ebola River in 1976. 

The latest outbreak in the west of the country began in June, prompting the WHO to send a team of health workers with more than 3,500 doses of the Ebola vaccine.

Genetic sequencing found that the virus in this outbreak was slightly different from the one which affected the same region two years ago.  

When the latest outbreak struck, Congo was only two days away from declaring the end of the epidemic in North Kivu province which began in 2018. 

That outbreak has since been declared over after infecting nearly 3,500 people and causing more than 2,500 deaths during the two-year epidemic. 

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the earlier Ebola outbreak in the east of the country

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the earlier Ebola outbreak in the east of the country 

According to Doctors Without Borders, the 2018-20 outbreak was the second-biggest ever after the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014-16. 

During that crisis, more than 11,000 deaths were reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while there were also a handful of cases in Europe.  

Congo’s health system, which has been hobbled by decades of war and underfunding, has also been fighting one of the world’s worst measles epidemics.  

More than 7,000 children are thought to have died of measles in a 14-month period, and the true number may be far higher because many cases go unreported. 

Last year the government and aid agencies vaccinated more than 18million children under five, according to the WHO. 

There have also been cases of polio, cholera and the bubonic plague alongside coronavirus and the two Ebola epidemics.  

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