By Associated Press Writer
updated 11/20/2007 4:01:28 PM ET 2007-11-20T21:01:28

An Ebola outbreak that killed six people in Congo has been contained, the World Health Organization and government officials said Tuesday.

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"We can say today that the Ebola epidemic has been completely subdued — having observed a period twice the length of the disease's incubation period without any new infections," Health Minister Makwenge Kaput said.

The incubation period for Ebola is about 15 days, and outbreaks are usually considered contained when twice the incubation period has passed.

The Ebola outbreak was first discovered in the area of Kampungu in August. Public health experts flew in from around the world to help contain the virus.

Congo's last major Ebola outbreak in 1995 killed 245 people in Kikwit, about 185 miles (300 kilometers) from the site of this year's outbreak.

It was initially difficult to assess the size of the outbreak because many of the sick had diseases with similar symptoms such as typhoid, malaria and shigella, said Dr. Vital Mondonge, a health ministry official.

Seventeen cases were confirmed by lab tests, six of which ended in death, Kaput said. He added a handful of other cases met the clinical definition of Ebola, but had not yet been analyzed.

The Zaire subtype of Ebola detected in the Congo can kill up to 90 percent of people infected. The virus attacks the body's internal organs, and can cause bleeding from the ears, eyes and elsewhere.

Ebola is transmitted by close contact with infected animals or humans. Experts say the Kampungu outbreak may have started when villagers in the area ate an infected animal. It was then probably spread at several funerals, where people typically touch the body during the ceremony.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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