FILE - In this file photo taken Thursday, May 31, 2018, Congolese health officials prepare to disinfect people and buildings at the general referral hospital in Mbandaka, Congo. Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga on Tuesday July 24, 2018, declared the end of the country's latest deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus, after a 42-day observation period with no new confirmed cases recorded. (AP Photo/John Bompengo, FILE)

Congo confirms end of latest deadly Ebola outbreak

July 24, 2018 - 9:45 am

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo's latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus is over, the health ministry announced Tuesday, after a 42-day observation period with no new confirmed cases recorded.

There were 54 Ebola cases, including 33 deaths, in the outbreak that was declared in early May in northwest Equateur province, the ministry said.

Health officials said a quick international response and vaccinations of more than 3,300 people were major factors in containing the outbreak, Congo's ninth since the hemorrhagic fever was first identified in 1976.

"Although the scale of the crisis we were facing was unprecedented, the speed and effectiveness of the response put in place by the government and its partners were also exceptional," Health Minister Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga said.

The outbreak posed a serious challenge when it spread to the city of Mbandaka and its more than 1 million people.

The other initial cases were in remote, hard-to-reach rural areas without basic infrastructure such as electricity, making the vaccination effort more challenging.

"From the start, we had prepared for the worst of scenarios," the health minister said. "And our fears were quickly confirmed with the confirmation on Wednesday, May 16 of the first cases of Ebola in the city of Mbandaka."

The city sits on the Congo River upstream from the capital, Kinshasa. There were concerns the virus would spread not only within the country but to neighboring countries including Central African Republic.

International organizations will remain in Congo for follow-up and monitoring.

The World Health Organization, which played a major role in the outbreak response and delivery of the vaccines, congratulated Congo.

"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 ministry of health. That kind of leadership, allied with strong collaboration between partners, saves lives," said the WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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This version removes the reference to this being the first time Ebola had spread to a major Congo city.

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Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.

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