An Ebola outbreak that sparked fears of another global health crisis and a rapid response to the Democratic Republic of Congo has officially ended, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
Officials declared it over because six weeks, or two incubation periods of the virus, had passed since the last patient was released from the hospital, with no new cases reported.
Nearly 30 people died in the outbreak, which resulted in roughly 60 infections and struck four areas of the DRC — including Mbandaka, a major port city.
Officials were afraid the virus would travel up and down the Congo River to neighboring capital cities. Yet aggressive tracking and the use of an experimental vaccine proved successful, as WHO strived to avoid a repeat of the West African outbreak that killed more than 11,000 in 2013-2016.
“The outbreak was contained due to the tireless efforts of local teams, the support of partners, the generosity of donors, and the effective leadership of the [DRC] Ministry of Health. That kind of leadership, allied with strong collaboration between partners, saves lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The outbreak — the DRC’s ninth since Ebola was discovered in the late 1970s — was officially declared in early May, prompting the WHO to release millions from its contingency fund and activate an emergency response to remote areas of the country.
The U.S. offered $7 million for the response, and pharmaceutical giant Merck dispatched its trial vaccine, known as VSV-ZEBOV.
More than three-quarters of the 360 people who responded to the outbreak were from Africa, including dozens of vaccination experts from Guinea, where Merck’s shots had proven effective in 2015, according to WHO.