World Health Organization hopes to deploy vaccine after fresh Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

Three of the cases, including one of the deaths, involved healthcare workers, which was potentially "an amplification factor" for outbreaks, Peter Salama said.

According to the South Sudanese health ministry, the medical team is mandated to deal with any suspected case of Ebola for emergency testing and diagnose.

An outbreak of Ebola, a deadly form of viral hemorrhagic fever, has stricken Congo for the ninth time since the disease was discovered in the 1970s. Around 50 per cent of patients die, according to the WHO.

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Laboratory tests undertaken earlier this week in the capital, Kinshasa, resulted in the only two confirmed cases of the virus - which has no proven cure - in Congo since the outbreak began. A 2014 outbreak killed 49 people. "Local Red Cross staff and volunteers are embedded in numerous most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach communities and are key to provide awareness-raising, meticulous surveillance and a high degree of vigilance that are essential to detect and properly manage any new suspected Ebola cases". The virus is transmitted to human through contact with wild animals and can then be passed from person to person.

"Even though this is a remote rural area, which normally gives us a sense of reassurance in terms of the spread of an outbreak, the problem here is that we already have three separate locations covering as much as 60km and maybe more", Mr Salama said. However, the affected health area of Bikoro covers 1,075 km2 and has a population of 163, 065 inhabitants. "WHO will work closely with health authorities and partners to support the national response".

Using the vaccine to contain the current outbreak poses several challenges. In this case, the vaccine's deployment is meant to assist health-care workers in ending the outbreak long before it has the possibility of turning into an epidemic.

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Based on the information now available and the rapid response measures implemented by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO and partners, the event does not meet the criteria of a public heath event of global concern as defined in the IHR (2005), and does not warrant the convening of an Emergency Committee under the IHR (2005). The last outbreak occurred there in 2017 in the northern Bas Uele province.

The lessons learned during the West Africa outbreak, as well as previous outbreaks in DRC, will be key. "I'm in contact in the Minister of health and have assured him that we're ready to do all that's needed to stop the spread of Ebola quickly".

It comes after Ebola fears prompted emergency measures in Nigeria across the border.

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Speaking at a United Nations briefing in Geneva, Salam said he hoped an "experimental vaccine" could be deployed on Congo.

  • Jermaine Castillo