KINSHASA, Sept 22 (Reuters) - An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of Congo, unrelated to the epidemic in West Africa, is “almost over” with no new cases detected for several days, Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo said.
The government body coordinating the response to Ebola released data on Monday showing Congo had recorded 68 cases in Equateur province since August. Four previously suspected cases had tested negative, but one new case was added.
Congo has registered 41 deaths from its outbreak.
“Ebola outbreak in DRC almost over,” Matata Ponyo said on his official Twitter account. “No new case recorded for nearly 10 days.”
Unlike West African states, Congo has experience fighting Ebola. However, aid workers are likely to be cautious about declaring victory over the disease after governments in West Africa appeared to downplay the threat of the virus there in the early stages of the outbreak.
A spokesman for French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has some 40 aid workers helping Congo fight the illness, said it was not in a position to say whether the disease was under control.
The Ebola outbreak in Congo was first declared in the Djera area of the province of Equateur on Aug. 24. Unlike the crisis in West Africa, the disease is contained in distant, thickly forested regions with low population density.
West Africa’s Ebola outbreak began in Guinea’s southeast and the government said several times it was controlling the disease, however it gradually spread into the capital, Conakry, and then into neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Nigeria and Senegal recorded cases but appear to have contained the disease.
The World Health Organisation says over 2,800 people have now been killed, about half of all those infected. Experts say the number of cases is likely to exceed 20,000 before the disease can be brought under control. (Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by David Lewis and Crispian Balmer)