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Congo declares Ebola outbreak is over

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Kinshasa, Dec 16 (IANS) The Ebola outbreak that erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu Province in October — the second in 2021 — was declared over on Thursday, the national health authorities announced.

In total, 11 cases (eight confirmed, three probable), including six deaths were reported in the outbreak that was declared on October 8 after a new case was confirmed in Beni health zone in the country’s North Kivu Province. This was the country’s 13th outbreak and occurred in the same area as the 2018 outbreak which lasted two years.

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More than 1,800 people were vaccinated in a campaign that kicked off just five days after the first case was detected.

The outbreak marks the first time the recently-licensed ERVEBO vaccine against Ebola was used in the country. ERVEBO is the same as the compassionate-use vaccine, but as a licensed vaccine, rollout is less cumbersome operationally.

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“Stronger disease surveillance, community engagement, targeted vaccination and prompt response are making for more effective Ebola containment in the region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.

“During this outbreak, 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,” Moeti added.

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Swift response comprising key outbreak control measures such as contact tracing, testing, disease surveillance as well as community collaboration efforts helped contain the outbreak within Beni, where the initial case was detected. In support of the country, WHO deployed experts, supplies, and contributed funds to help contain the outbreak.

However, unpredictable and sometimes volatile security in parts of Beni hampered the response in some localities with health workers and other frontline responders unable to access insecure areas to monitor high-risk contacts or administer vaccines.

With the outbreak now declared over, the health authorities are maintaining surveillance and are ready to respond quickly to any flare-ups. It is not unusual for sporadic cases to occur following a major outbreak.

Results from genome sequencing conducted by the country’s National Institute of Biomedical Research found that the first Ebola case detected in the just-ended outbreak likely represented a new flare-up of the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak due to persistence of the virus in the community.

–IANS

rvt/bg

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