Wednesday August 21, 2019

Vaccination Campaign Against Ebola Virus Launched In Democratic Republic of Congo

At the moment, officials have only 7,500 doses of the experimental vaccine.

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a move that tries to cut off the virus at the pass while also making good use of the limited supply of the vaccine.
Health officials in the rural corner of northwest Congo that has been hit with Ebola say workers are seeking out those at the highest risk to vaccinate. Pixabay
Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo began a vaccination drive to control an Ebola outbreak that has infected more than 50 people and killed as many as 25. But as aid workers and health experts say this vaccination drive is a careful, methodical process in which trust is a key element.

Health officials in the rural corner of northwest Congo that has been hit with Ebola say workers are seeking out those at the highest risk to vaccinate, a move that tries to cut off the virus at the pass while also making good use of the limited supply of the vaccine.

At the moment, officials have only 7,500 doses of the experimental vaccine.

Tarik Jasarevic
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said, “This is not a general mass immunization, as is being done for some other diseases. We are looking into people who have been in contact with those who tested positive for Ebola”. Pixabay

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic explained the campaign, which began this week in the rural communities of Bikoro and Iboko.

“This is not a general mass immunization, as is being done for some other diseases,” he explained. “We are looking into people who have been in contact with those who tested positive for Ebola, and their contacts. So we make a ring around the person who contracted the virus.”

That is careful work and involves much more than medicine, said UNICEF field worker Jean Claude Nzengu.

He said workers go to the households to talk about the vaccination that stops transmission, the advantage of the vaccination, what the residents need to do, how to behave, and finally take them to be vaccinated.

Congolese health authorities first reported the Ebola outbreak in early May. This is not Congo’s first encounter with the often-deadly virus, which causes an acute, serious illness. The WHO puts the survival rate around 50 percent.

That is careful work and involves much more than medicine
UNICEF field worker Jean Claude Nzengu.
said workers go to the households to talk about the vaccination. Pixabay

Last week, three infected patients escaped from isolation units in the city of Mbandaka. Two were found dead a day later and the other was found alive and returned to quarantine.

Jasarevic said it takes cooperation from the entire community for an Ebola outbreak to be defeated.

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“It is only human that people who have their relatives in isolation units want them to be at home, want them to be with their family at home in what could be the last moments of their lives,” he said. “But we need really to explain to everyone how disease is being transmitted. If a person who is sick is in an isolation unit, it not only increases the chance of survival for this patient, but it will also prevent the spread of the virus to the family.”

The vaccination drive began last week, with health care workers receiving the first doses.

The experimental vaccine, made by U.S.-based Merck pharmaceuticals, has been shown in trials to be safe for humans. (VOA)

Next Story

Children Orphans by Ebola in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Doubles

The U.N. children's fund reports the number of children orphaned by Ebola or separated from their parents because of the disease

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FILE - Two-month-old Lahya Kathembo, whose mother and father died of Ebola, is carried by a nurse waiting for test results at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC, July 17, 2019. VOA

The U.N. children’s fund reports the number of children orphaned by Ebola or separated from their parents because of the disease in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has more than doubled since April.

Since the epidemic was declared more than one year ago, aid agencies have registered 1,380 children who have lost one or both parents to Ebola. During the same period, nearly 2,470 children have been separated from parents undergoing treatment for the disease or isolated because they have come in contact with an infected person.

World Health Organization figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2,831, including nearly 1,900 deaths. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says more children are getting sick and dying in this epidemic than in previous ones.

“In this epidemic, about 30 percent of the cases are among children, whereas in previous epidemics, the proportion was about 20 percent,” Mercado  said. “As of the fourth of August, there were 787 children below 18 who were infected with Ebola and there have been 527 deaths.”

Children, Orphans, Ebola
FILE – Health workers begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 16, 2019. VOA

Mercado says the children are under enormous stress and need extensive physical, psychosocial and social care. Given the more than doubling of children in need, she says these specialized services must be urgently scaled up, especially in Beni, where the largest number of children are affected.

“For children with no surviving parents, the needs are longer term,” she said. “The teams work to place children with relatives or foster families, which is not easy given the economic burden of raising extra children and the fear of catching the disease or being associated with it. It often requires delicate mediation, as well as financial support for food, school fees and other basic necessities.”

The work being done by psychosocial assistants is critical because stigma against Ebola orphans is pervasive, Mercado told VOA. She added that children who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus often are rejected by families and communities who believe they will become sick.

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This, she said, is when social workers step in to convince these people they have nothing to fear and that providing loving care for the children will help them thrive. (VOA)