Congo counts down to declaring end to Ebola outbreak

Congo moves closer to declaring its Ebola outbreak over as health ministry says it's completed surveillance of the last people who came into contact with patients.

'Use of vaccination in this Ebola response has been a game-changer,' Congo's health ministry says

More than 3,300 people have received Merck's experimental vaccine in Congo. (Kenny Katombe/Reuters)

Congo's health ministry says the countdown toward the end of its latest Ebola outbreak has begun, as all people who were in contact with the last confirmed case have passed the 21-day incubation period with no sign of the virus.

The ministry announced the milestone Thursday. The outbreak's end can be declared when two incubation periods, or 42 days, pass without any new confirmed cases.

There have been 38 confirmed Ebola cases, including 14 deaths, since the outbreak was declared in early May. Congo has had nine outbreaks of the virus, which was first discovered there in 1976.

More than 3,300 people have received Merck's experimental vaccine and health workers kept a watch on 1,706 people who came into contact with Ebola patients, officials said.

"The use of vaccination in this Ebola response has been a game-changer as it allowed us to break the chain of transmission and contain the virus more quickly," the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"So far, the results of the vaccination have been promising as none of the individuals who were vaccinated developed the disease nor experienced major side-effects," it added.

With files from Reuters