Congo declares end of Ebola outbreak, sees lessons for COVID-19 fight

Kinshasa: Democratic Republic of Congo announced the end of an almost six-month Ebola outbreak in the west of the country on Wednesday as health authorities looked to apply lessons from the successful response to the fight against COVID-19 in Africa.

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The outbreak, which infected 130 people and killed 55, emerged in June, weeks before a separate Ebola epidemic in the east drew to a close. That one killed more than 2,200 people, the second-most in the disease’s history.

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I am pleased to solemnly declare the end of the 11th epidemic of Ebola virus disease in Equateur Province, Health Minister Eteni Longondo told a news conference.

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Longondo attributed the success of the response to the ready availability of vaccines and treatments as well as efforts to move treatment centres closer to local communities.

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Medics vaccinated 40,000 people in communities scattered across rainforests that often lacked electricity. They used cold-chain technology to keep vaccines at temperatures as low as -80 degrees Celsius, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

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The technology used to keep the Ebola vaccine at super-cold temperatures will be helpful when bringing a COVID-19 vaccine to Africa,” said WHO’s Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti.

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was applying best practices from the Ebola outbreak to COVID-19 including the use of rapid response teams of local volunteers.

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African countries have been spared the worst consequences of COVID-19, with relatively low death and infection rates, but the outbreak is still testing already fragile health systems.

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Congo has suffered 11 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered near the Ebola River in 1976, more than double any other country.

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Its equatorial forests are a natural reservoir for the virus, which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with body fluids.

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