DR Congo Ebola outbreak declared over

The Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared over, the United Nations said on Tuesday, attributing it to concerted national and international effort to contain the threat.

The countdown to the announcement began on 12 June, when the last patient was released from care after testing negative a second time for the virus.

Speaking from the DR Congo capital, Kinshasa, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the “tireless efforts” of local teams in combating the deadly disease, which claimed 29 lives, and infected dozens more.

Tedros also congratulated health partners, donors and the DR Congo’s ministry of health for working together so effectively to end the outbreak.

Unlike eight previous Ebola outbreaks in DR Congo in the past four decades, this latest episode was complicated by the fact that it involved a major urban centre of more than 1 million people, Mbandaka, with a direct connection via the Congo River to the capital and to neighbouring countries, as well as extremely remote rainforest villages.

There were concerns that the disease could spread from Equateur province to other parts of DR Congo and neighbouring countries, Tedros said, but the threat was minimized thanks to the release of emergency WHO funding within hours of the outbreak being declared on 8 May.

In an appeal to the authorities and health partners to transfer the momentum of fighting Ebola to other diseases in DR Congo, Tedros said that they could be “confident” about tackling cholera and polio, too.

“We must continue to work together, investing in strengthened preparedness and access to health care for the most vulnerable,” he said.