Uganda has declared an end to its Ebola outbreak four months after the disease emerged, killing 55 people.
The World Health Organisation has praised the country's “robust and comprehensive response” to the much-feared haemorrhagic fever.
“We have successfully controlled the Ebola outbreak in Uganda,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said at a ceremony in the central district of Mubende, where the disease was first detected in September.
Under the WHO's criteria, an outbreak of the disease officially ends when there are no new cases for 42 consecutive days — twice the virus's incubation period.
Ms Aceng said January 11 marked 113 days since the start of the epidemic, which also spread to the capital Kampala.
“Uganda put a swift end to the Ebola outbreak by ramping up key control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and infection, prevention and control,” the WHO statement quoted the minister as saying.
“While we expanded our efforts to put a strong response in place across the nine affected districts, the magic bullet has been our communities, who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak and took action.”
Two districts at the epicentre of the epidemic, Mubende and Kassanda, were placed under lockdown for two months until mid-December, but the government did not impose similar measures nationwide.
Uganda's outbreak was caused by Sudan Ebola, one of six strains of the virus for which there is currently no confirmed vaccine.
Three candidate vaccines — one developed by Oxford University and the Jenner Institute in Britain, another from the Sabin Vaccine Institute in the US, and a third from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative — are being trialled in Uganda.
“Uganda has shown that Ebola can be defeated when the whole system works together, from having an alert system in place, to finding and caring for people affected and their contacts, to gaining the full participation of affected communities in the response,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
The last confirmed patient was discharged from hospital on November 30, according to health officials.
“Two months ago, it looked as if Ebola would cast a dark shadow over the country well into 2023, as the outbreak reached major cities such as Kampala and Jinja, but this win starts off the year on a note of great hope for Africa,” said the WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti.