Tuesday February 19, 2019

WHO Experts Start Ebola Vaccinations In Congo

The experimental vaccine was used in an earlier, unrelated outbreak in Congo's northwest that was declared over last month.

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Ebola, WHO
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization says experts are starting to carry out Ebola vaccinations in Congo’s latest deadly outbreak.

Health officials have warned that containing the outbreak is complicated by the presence of multiple armed groups in the northeast region that borders Uganda and Rwanda.

Congo’s health ministry says at least nine people have died in the country’s tenth Ebola outbreak, which was declared Aug. 1. There have been 16 confirmed Ebola cases, 27 probable cases and 46 suspected ones.

The experimental vaccine was used in an earlier, unrelated outbreak in Congo’s northwest that was declared over last month. The first to be vaccinated are health workers, contacts of confirmed Ebola cases and their contacts.

Also Read: Congo’s New Ebola Outbreak Is A Great Risk: WHO

Genetic analysis has confirmed the virus strain in this latest outbreak is the Zaire strain. (VOA)

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WHO Makes Progress In Controlling Ebola In Congo

In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated.

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

Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus.

Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation and contact tracing.

Ebola
Medical staff are sterilized before entering the isolation unit at a hospital in Bundibugyo, western Uganda, on Aug. 17, 2018, where there is one suspected case of Ebola. VOA

She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts.

“I feel optimistic,” Moeti said. “I am very clear that we need to continue this work. We need to make sure that in the places where we have made progress, we build on this progress and we do not go back. And, we are being very, very conscious of the fact that we need to invest to improve the preparedness both in the DRC areas that are highest at risk and, most importantly, in the surrounding countries that are at risk.”

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Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 20, 2018. VOA

The risk of the virus spreading to countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is very high because of the heavy cross-border traffic among the countries, Moeti said. However, she added, surveillance and preparedness activities have been enhanced on both sides of the border.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

She says there is extensive monitoring at border crossings and improvements have been made in screening people for the virus. In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated. Moeti said a similar vaccination campaign began two days ago in South Sudan. (VOA)