More than 500 people died as a result of the last Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a vaccination program prevented thousands more deaths, said the country's health minister.
"In total, there were 502 deaths and 271 people recovered," said a health ministry bulletin published Friday, reporting on the epidemic in the east of the country.
But Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said that, for the first time, a vaccination program protected 76,425 people and prevented "thousands" of deaths.
"I believe we have prevented the spread of the epidemic in large cities" in the region, he said.
"The teams have also managed to contain the spread of the epidemic in neighboring countries," he added.
"The biggest problem is the high mobility of the population," the minister added.
The epidemic began last August in the North Kivu region, which borders Uganda and Rwanda.
The Spanish wing of the Médecins Sans Frontières aid agency (MSF) reported on Twitter on Saturday that there has been a wave of cases since January 15th.
Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan in the north were all on alert, he added.
Ebola is a serious infectious disease that can spread rapidly through small amounts of body fluid, causing internal bleeding and potentially death.
The last outbreak is the tenth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since Ebola was first detected in 1976.
The deadly epidemic is the second largest in history, behind the devastating epidemic of West Africa that killed thousands of years ago, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The security situation in the east of the country, where armed rebels have terrorized the population for years, has made treatment of the disease difficult.