Wednesday December 19, 2018

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
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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.

Read More: Fistula Epidemic In Nigeria, Cultural Practices To Blame 

“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)

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The Young Miracle: Baby In Congo Suffering From Ebola Recovers

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances "unforgiving."

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Ebola, baby
- In this photograph taken Dec. 3, 2018, and released by UNICEF, an Ebola survivor cares for one-week-old Benedicte who was infected at birth with the Ebola virus by her mother, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

They call her the “young miracle.” A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center just six days after birth has now recovered from the virus.

Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.

The ministry late Thursday tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open in yawn or squall, surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.

The baby’s mother, who had Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry said.

The infant was discharged Wednesday from the treatment center in Beni. “She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,” the ministry said.

 

Ebola, baby
Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient, inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

 

Experts have reported high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, which Congo’s health ministry says has 515 cases, 467 of them confirmed, including 255 confirmed deaths.

 

The tiny survivor is named Benedicte. In video footage shared by UNICEF, she is shown in an isolated treatment area, cradled in the arms of health workers in protective gear or cuddled by Ebola survivors, called “nounous,” who can go without certain gear such as masks. The survivors are crucial with their reassuring presence, the health ministry said.

“This is my first child,” her father, Thomas, said. “I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.” He gazed at his baby daughter through the clear protective plastic.

Infected children

Children now account for more than one-third of all cases in this outbreak, UNICEF said earlier this week. One in 10 Ebola cases is in a child under 5 years old, it said, and children who contract the hemorrhagic fever are at greater risk of dying than adults.

Ebola, Baby
A health care worker carries a cross next to a coffin with a baby suspected of dying of Ebola in Beni, North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 13, 2018. VOA

While Ebola typically infects adults, as they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.

Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission might happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents. Ebola is typically spread by infected bodily fluids.

The World Health Organization also has noted that health centers have been identified as a source of Ebola transmission in this outbreak, with injections of medications “a notable cause.”

Dangerous conditions

So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni “to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated” there, it said.

Congo, Ebola, Women, Baby
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the 10th in Congo, is like no other as they face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.

Also Read: Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

The latest WHO assessment, released Thursday, simply calls the circumstances “unforgiving.”

And now, Congo is set to hold a presidential election Dec. 23, with unrest already brewing. (VOA)