The outbreak was "the longest, most complex and deadliest" in the 60-year history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Eteni Longondo said.

A health worker waits to handle a new unconfirmed Ebola patient at an Ebola treatment centre in Bunia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 7, 2018.
A health worker waits to handle a new unconfirmed Ebola patient at an Ebola treatment centre in Bunia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 7, 2018. (AFP)

The second-largest Ebola outbreak on record is over after nearly two years and more than 2,200 deaths, Democratic Republic of Congo has said, even as a separate flare-up of the virus continued elsewhere in the country.

Despite effective vaccines and treatments that dramatically boosted survival rates when administered early, the outbreak dragged on as first responders struggled to gain access to virus hotspots in Congo's restive eastern borderlands.

Two experimental vaccines were brought in to help roll back the disease. More than 320,000 people received the jab.

As that outbreak neared its end, another one was declared on June 1 in the western city of Mbandaka, more than 1,000 km (620 miles) away. Genetic testing revealed the two epidemics were not connected.

"The Health Ministry intends to capitalise on the lessons learned and the success factors from this long epidemic to assure the most effective response possible in Mbandaka," Health Minister Eteni Longondo told reporters.

There were 3,463 cases confirmed and probable cases recorded over the course of the outbreak in eastern Congo, including 2,277 deaths, Longondo said.

The largest Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2013-2016, when more than 11,300 people died from the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

WHO reaction

The World Health Organization (WHO) reacted with joy to Thursday's announcement.

"#Ebola outbreak in #DRC is OVER! WHO congratulates all those involved in this tough and often dangerous work to end the almost 2-year long outbreak," it said on Twitter.

The epidemic in the east was declared by the WHO in July 2019 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a move that steps up international support, given the epicentre's close proximity to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

When does an outbreak end?

For an Ebola outbreak to be officially over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days, which is double the incubation period of the deadly haemorrhagic microbe.

The eastern outbreak was just three days from reaching the finish line in April when a new case was reported. Further cases meant that the clock was restarted on May 14.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

It has a natural reservoir in nature, which is believed to be a species of bat.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies