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.
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.
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.”
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.
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)