Wednesday June 20, 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.

0
//
41
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
Republish
Reprint
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)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Ultra-Secure Lab In Gabon To Handle World’s Most Dangerous Viruses

'Teams on alert'

0
Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville.
Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville. VOA

At a research facility in Gabon, one isolated building stands behind an electrified fence, under round-the-clock scrutiny by video cameras. The locked-down P4 lab is built to handle the world’s most dangerous viruses, including Ebola.

“Only four people, three researchers and a technician, are authorized to go inside the P4,” said virologist Illich Mombo, who is in charge of the lab, one of only two in all of Africa that is authorized to handle deadly Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever viruses. The other is in Johannesburg.

The P4 was put up 800 metres (half a mile) distant from older buildings of the Franceville International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF), in large grounds on the outskirts of Franceville, the chief city in the southeastern Haut-Ogooue province.

Filming the ultra-high-security lab or even taking photos is banned and the handful of people allowed inside have security badges. Backup power plants ensure an uninterruptable electricity supply. “Even the air that we breathe is filtered,” Mombo explains.

When he goes into the P4 lab to work on a sample of suspect virus such as Ebola — which has claimed 28 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during an outbreak in the past six weeks — Mombo wears a head-to-foot biohazard suit.

The special clothing is destroyed as soon as he has finished. Draconian measures are in force to prevent any risk of contamination, with potentially disastrous effects.

Ebola Virus, Treatment
Ebola Virus, Treatment, Pixabay

‘Teams on alert’

Once a suspect virus has been “inactivated” — a technique that stops the sample from being contagious — it is carefully taken from the P4 unit to other CIRMF laboratories in the compound, where it is analysed.

Specialized teams will scrutinize it, looking to confirm its strain of Ebola and hunting for clues such as the virus’s ancestry and evolution, which are vital for tracking the spread of the disease.

CIRMF director Jean-Sylvain Koumba, a colonel in the Gabonese army and a military doctor, said lab teams had been “placed on alert” to handle Ebola samples sent on by the National Institute of Biomedical Resarch in the DRC capital Kinshasa.

The nature of the sample can be determined with rare precision, for the facility has state-of-the-art equipment matched in few other places worldwide.

“On average, it takes 24 to 48 hours between the time when a sample arrives and when we get the results,” Mombo said.

Founded in 1979 by Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo Ondimba to study national fertility rates, the CIRMF moved on to AIDS, malaria, cancer, viral diseases and the neglected tropical maladies that affect a billion people around the world, according to the WHO.

The center is financed by the Gabonese state, whose main wealth is derived from oil exports, and gets help from France.

In all, 150 people work for the CIRMF and live on the huge premises. Its reputation draws scientists, students and apprentices from Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as Africa.

“[The] CIRMF is uniquely suited to study infectious diseases of the Congolese tropical rain forest, the second world’s largest rain forest,” two French scientists, Eric Leroy and Jean-Paul Gonzalez, wrote in the specialist journal Viruses in 2012.

“[It] is dedicated to conduct medical research of the highest standard … with unrivaled infrastructure, multiple sites and multidisciplinary teams.”

African child suffering from Malaria and ebola
African child suffering from Malaria and ebola, Pixabay

Animal ‘reservoir’?

The facility also conducts investigations into how lethal tropical pathogens are able to leap the species barrier, said Gael Darren Maganga, who helps run the unit studying the emergence of viral diseases.

“A passive watch consists of taking a sample from a dead animal after a request, while the active watch is when we go out ourselves to do fieldwork and take samples,” he said.

A major center of interest is the bat, seen as a potential “reservoir” — a natural haven — for the Ebola virus, said Maganga. Staff regularly go out all over Gabon to take samples of saliva, fecal matter and blood.

The consumption of monkey flesh and other bush meat is common practice in central Africa.

Also read: Vaccination Campaign Against Ebola Virus Launched In Democratic Republic of Congo

“It’s still a hypothesis, but the transmission to human beings could be by direct contact, for instance by getting scratches [from a bat] in caves, or by handling apes which have been infected by bat saliva,” he said. (VOA)