The Democratic Republic of Congo is celebrating the end of its 12th outbreak of Ebola, just three months after the first case was reported.
The outbreak — which infected 12 people and killed six — was contained due to an efficient vaccination drive, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (or Doctors without Borders), who said that more than 1,600 people in contact with, or otherwise linked to, those infected were vaccinated.
The country saw a resurgence of the Ebola virus in February this year, just months after it had declared the end to its 11th outbreak, which plagued the country between June and November in 2020.
“Despite the security context and the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapidity and efficiency of the response put in place by the government and its partners made it possible to defeat this pandemic in less than three months,” health minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani of North Kivu Province said, as he announced the end of the outbreak.
Dealing with the most recent outbreak was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing social unrest that limited health care workers in their fight against the virus. However the country was better prepared to handle the outbreak this time around compared to past outbreaks thanks to the efficient vaccination drive.
Several vaccines were developed to fight the Ebola virus following the deaths of more than 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016, and were first used in the DRC in 2019.
But while Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa, praised the country’s response, she cautioned that this was not the end of the disease itself.
“Huge credit must be given to the local health workers and the national authorities for their prompt response, tenacity, experience, and hard work that brought this outbreak under control,” she said.
“Although the outbreak has ended, we must stay alert for possible resurgence and at the same time use the growing expertise on emergency response to address other health threats the country faces," she added.
The WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus also reiterated this point in his own statement and affirmed the organization’s assistance in helping the country to stay vigilant.
“The World Health Organization is committed to helping national and local authorities, and the people of North Kivu, prevent the return of this deadly virus and to promote the overall health and well-being of all at-risk communities,” he said.