Congo declares end to latest Ebola outbreak in the east

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FILE – A child is vaccinated against Ebola in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. Congolese officials Thursday Dec. 16, 2021 announced an end to an Ebola outbreak that had killed at least six people since October 2021 in the latest health challenge confronting the country’s restive east.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file)

BENI, Congo (AP) — 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.

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.

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.

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.

The newly ended outbreak marked the 13th time Congo has battled Ebola, including another outbreak in North Kivu between February and May of this year.

The disease has proved particularly difficult to prevent in North Kivu, which is home to a myriad of armed groups.

While the 2018-2020 pandemic marked the first time that vaccines could be given to those at risk, insecurity in rural areas prevented health workers from safely accessing many. Those challenges also faced vaccination and contact monitoring teams somewhat this time around too, WHO said.

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