DR Congo approves use of experimental Ebola vaccine

Posted May 15, 2018

The WHO on Monday confirmed 19 deaths in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following an outbreak of Ebola between April 4 and May 13.

The UN agency is working with the country's Ministry of Health and global nongovernmental organization M-decins Sans Fronti-res to conduct ring vaccinations across the affected region, where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated. About 4,000 doses will be sent to the remote north-western province of equator.

The outbreak has been localized to three health areas, namely Bikoro (29 cases), Iboko (8 cases) and Wangata (2 cases).

The WHO statement noted that 393 people who have been in contact with Ebola sufferers are being followed up, but information on the outbreak is still limited.

Only two cases have so far been confirmed in a laboratory.

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The vaccine, which is designed for use in a so-called "ring vaccination" approach, was tested in Guinea in 2015 at the end of a vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The WHO was widely criticised for reacting too slowly to the 2014-16 epidemic in West Africa. The 393 close contacts now under surveillance for symptoms of Ebola would likely be the first recipients of the vaccine.

Anyone receiving the vaccine will then be checked three, 14, 21, 42, 63 and 84 days later. But the vaccine is still experimental as it does not have a licence.

World Health Organization has released $1 million USA dollars from the contingency fund for emergencies, the United Nations has released $2 million U.S. dollars from the Central Emergency Response Funds, and the Welcome Trust has provided 2 million pounds sterling for critical research needs.

Dr Peter Salama, deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response for the World Health Organization, said: "Working with partners and responding early and in a coordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease".

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Transporting the vaccines to the affected area would be logistically challenging. "It's a highly complex operation in one of the most hard terrains in the world".

Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are on high alert over risk of the ongoing Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) spreading to their territories.

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Ebola virus disease, which most commonly affects people and nonhuman primatessuch as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees, is caused by one of five Ebola viruses. According to researchers, the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 100 percent: Of the almost 6,000 patients vaccinated, all were declared Ebola-"free" after 10 days.

The disease is believed to be hosted by bats but the blood and bodily fluids of animals is how the disease is thought to have transmitted to humans. Bikoro hospital has sealed off a ward to diagnose suspected Ebola patients and provide treatment, according to UNICEF.

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