DRC Ebola outbreak expands, 19 deaths reportedly connected to the virus

Ebola is Back in the Congo Here’s What You Need to Know
            
             
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The World Health Organization said there have been 39 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola over the past five weeks as the virus spreads across three rural areas covering almost 40 miles in the northwest part of the country.

World Health Organisation obtained 4,000 doses of experimental Ebola vaccine and was preparing for deployment in Congo.

The UN agency is working with the country's Ministry of Health and global nongovernmental organization M-decins Sans Fronti-res to conduct ring vaccinations across the affected region, where contacts of those infected, followed by contacts of those contacts, would all be vaccinated.

M-decins Sans Fronti-res has set up four five-bed mobile isolation units to increase the hospital bed capacity in Bikoro, which is now 15 beds. Seventeen of those 21 infected people died. "We have three health care workers infected and one already died".

The outbreak, which is believed to have started at least five weeks ago, was officially declared on May 8 after the DRC health ministry confirmed two positive tests from among a number of suspected Ebola cases in Bikoro and a village called Ikoko-Impenge, about 40 miles away.

The equipment needed to keep the vaccine at subzero temperatures-the so-called cold chain-was arriving in the DRC on Sunday and would be set up in the next couple of days, he said.

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"We have agreement, registration, plus import permit, everything formally agreed already", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday, adding all is ready now to really use it and vaccinations could begin by next Monday. Teams on the ground have identified more than 350 people who had contact with patients.

With road travel between Bikoro and Mbandaka taking about 15 hours, establishing an "air bridge" is "the only way to mount a serious response", World Health Organization deputy director-general for emergency response Peter Salama said.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has said that Nigeria's friendly match against the DR Congo is not under threat in spite of the Ebola outbreak in the country.

The vaccine, developed by Merck and referred to both as VSV-ZEBOV and V920, has shown the ability to cut the risk of infection in human trials. The first known outbreak, in 1976, happened there.

It is the ninth recorded outbreak in a country that last battled the disease in 2017.

Republished with permission from STAT.

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