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Ebola outbreak kills 19 in DR Congo

15 May 2018

The World Health Organization has a green light from Congo to import and use an experimental Ebola vaccine in the country, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday. The idea is to vaccinate people who know someone who has been infected and the people who know those people, in an expanding "ring" around the infections.

The global health agency says 39 people have been reported or confirmed infected with the virus, which kills between 20 percent and 90 percent of victims, depending on the strain and the care they get.

Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, no one came down with Ebola 10 days after vaccination.

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".

"The WHO is strengthening its presence, positioning a dozen epidemiologists who will be divided on the axes of Mbandaka, Bikoro and Iboko to investigate alerts", its Congo representative, Allarangar Yokouide, said. Of the 34 suspected cases, two were confirmed, 18 have been classified as probable and 12 remains suspected cases.

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The WHO was widely criticised for reacting too slowly to the 2014-16 epidemic in West Africa.

"Because it is an experimental vaccine, there are several steps to observe", Jasarevik said.

However, the proximity of the affected area to the Congo River, which links to the Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, increases the risk of cases occurring in neighboring countries. "This is a highly complex sophisticated operation in one of the most hard terrains on Earth", Salama said.

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. On May 13, the WHO delivered two shipments from Geneva and Dubai with more than 30 tonnes of equipment, including Personal Protective Equipment kits, Interagency Emergency Health Kits, boxes for transportation, and body bags.

The dreaded Ebola virus has resurfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the governments of Africa and the United Nations are now better equipped to deal with the disease before it again claims thousands of lives. Mobile laboratories have been sent to Mbandaka and Bikoro.

Ebola outbreak kills 19 in DR Congo