An Ebola survivor who works as a nurse, gets dressed in a protective suit as he prepares to start his shift at an Ebola treatment centre (ETC) in Katwa, near Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Oct 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The 12th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was declared over on Monday, three months after the first case was reported in North Kivu.

Detected on Feb 7 in Butembo, a city in North Kivu province, the disease, which was contained using Merck’s Ebola vaccine, infected 12 people among whom six died.

“I’m pleased to solemnly declare the end of the 12th epidemic of Ebola in North Kivu province,” Jean-Jacques Mbungani, the DR Congo health minister, said in a statement on Monday.

Mbungani said despite the security context and the coronavirus pandemic, the rapidity and efficiency of the response put in place by the government and its partners made it possible to defeat the pandemic.

According to results from the genome sequencing conducted by the country’s National Institute of Biomedical Research, the first case was linked to the previous outbreak that was declared over nine months ago, in the same province.

The August 2018-June 2020 outbreak, the largest in the country and the second largest in the world after the West African outbreak of 2014-2016, infected 3,481 people, of whom 2,299 died.

In a statement, the World Health Organization congratulated the DR Congo’s health authorities and the health workers on the ground for their swift response, which built on the country’s previous experience in tackling Ebola outbreaks.

“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,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

“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.”

The WHO said response to the outbreak was often hampered by insecurity caused by armed groups and social disturbances which at times limited the movement of responders.

There were also concerns of potential crossover spread of the outbreak, noting that Butembo city is located about 150 kilometers from the Uganda border.

However, WHO said due to the effective response the outbreak stayed limited to North Kivu province.

The United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the end of the epidemic and said it will continue to work alongside the DR Congo government, its partners and communities over the next 90 days.

“We congratulate the Congolese authorities for their rapid action, their active surveillance and the massive mobilization of the communities,” Jean Metenier, the UN Children’s Fund senior coordinator of the disease in DR Congo, said in a statement.

“We are grateful to our donors for their generous and timely support as we enter the next phase of supporting survivors, their children and families.”

Meanwhile, Guinea is trying to contain the Ebola outbreak reported on Feb 14, in sub-prefecture of the Gouécké, Nzérékoré region.

Suspected cases were initially reported for people who had attended the burial of a nurse in Gouécké on Feb 1.

An analysis of the genome taken from samples from the latest outbreak showed that it is directly linked to cases from the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that started in Guinea and rapidly spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone was the deadliest since the virus was first detected in 1976. It infected 28,000 people among which 11,000 died.