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Ebola Outbreak in Congo Has Ended, W.H.O. Says

Global health

The outbreak, the first in which a new vaccine was quickly rolled out, was extinguished in less than three months, with 33 deaths.

A health worker in the port of Bangui, Central African Republic, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, waited to take the temperature of incoming Congolese travelers in June.CreditFlorent Vergnes/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Ebola outbreak that began in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April was declared officially over on Tuesday in what appeared to be twin triumphs for a new vaccine and rapid response.

Just 33 people died, even though the outbreak reached Mbandaka, a river port city of over one million people. At one point, experts had feared the virus might spread throughout Central Africa.

Three years ago, an Ebola outbreak in West Africa cost more than 11,000 lives. Health agencies were slow to respond, and no vaccine was available until it was nearly over.

The last known case in Congo occurred in early June, and the World Health Organization declared the outbreak “largely contained” three weeks later. Declaring it officially over, however, required waiting 42 days — the length of two viral incubation periods.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, joined Dr. Oly Ilunga, Congo’s health minister, in making the announcement in the capital, Kinshasa. Dr. Tedros thanked “the tireless efforts of local teams, the support of partners, the generosity of donors and the effective leadership of the Ministry of Health” in Congo.

The W.H.O., which was harshly criticized for failing to react in 2015, moved quickly in early May as soon as a handful of hemorrhagic fever deaths in Congo were confirmed to have been caused by Ebola.

The organization released $2 million from its emergency fund and sent its first support team from Geneva.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, with medical personnel in Itipo, Democratic Republic of Congo, last month.CreditJunior D. Kannah/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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