Ebola virus outbreak RAVAGES Congo as death toll rises to 19

Health officials are preparing for the'worst Ebola outbreak yet
WHO gets approval to use Ebola vaccine in DRC

15 May, 2018

According to the World Health Organization, between April 4 and May 13, a total of 39 Ebola virus disease cases have been reported, including 19 deaths.

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.

The WHO has received approval to use an experimental Ebola vaccine, using a "ring vaccination" approach, around the epicenter of the oubreak in the Congo.

Over the weekend, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported 7 more suspected cases of Ebola, raising the totals from April 4 through May 13 to 39 confirmed, suspected, and probable cases, including 19 deaths, for a case-fatality rate of 49%.

On May 3, local health authorities reported a mysterious cluster of 21 unexplained illnesses in the Bikoro Health District, located in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among the dead were three health-care workers.

Any other persons with potential exposure to Ebola, such as laboratory workers, surveillance and contact teams, will also be vaccinated.

The equipment needed to keep the vaccine at subzero temperatures-the so-called cold chain-was arriving in the DRC on Sunday and would be set up in the next couple of days, he said.

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The WHO director-general and Dr. Peter Salama, his deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, flew to the DRC on Friday for meetings with government officials.

"This is not a simple logistical effort; it's not like doing a polio campaign with oral polio vaccines, where we get it immediately out to the field".

The regions affected by the outbreak, however, abut larger cities capable of spreading the virus much more quickly, including the port city of Mbandaka, which has a population of 1.2 million and sits directly along the Congo River, a major economic lifeline. "This is a highly complex sophisticated operation in one of the most hard terrains on Earth", Salama said. The virus is then passed between humans through blood or bodily fluids, like saliva, sweat, urine, semen, or breast milk.

This comes a week after the World Health Organisation confirmed an Ebola outbreak in different parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"At present", the agency added, "this event does not meet the criteria of a public health event of worldwide concern".

An air bridge for supplies and personnel will be established by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) starting 13 May with daily flights scheduled from Kinshasa to Mbandaka and Mbandaka to Bikoro.

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