DRC to use trial vaccine in bid to contain Ebola

WHO gets approval to use Ebola vaccine in DRC

From 4 April through 13 May 2018, a total of 39 Ebola virus disease cases have been reported, including 19 deaths (case fatality rate = 49%) and three health care workers. DRC has seen 18 deaths over the past five weeks, but Congolese authorities together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other worldwide groups have now mobilized staff and resources to contain the virus.

In addition, an experimental ebola vaccine, which was developed during the 2014 to 2016 Ebola epidemic but was too late to make an impact, will be deployed by the World Health Organization in the DRC. "It's a targeted vaccination for people who are identified as possible contacts of people who have been infected", Tari Jasarevic, a World Health Organization spokesperson, told DW. A person becomes infected after making contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate.

In Congo, vaccines will also be administered to local and worldwide health care workers and front-line workers in both affected areas as well as the regions expected to be at risk should the outbreak continue to spread. But the vaccine is still experimental as it does not have a licence.

This is the DRC's ninth Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976. Contact tracing efforts are already underway.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, said based on the current assessment and response need, the estimated budget for the worldwide response is $18 million (N6.4 billion) for a three-month operation. Tedros met with the president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, and the minister of health, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, MD, to review the steps taken so far.

Tedros led a WHO delegation that included Matshidiso Moeti, MD, WHO regional director for Africa, and Peter Salama, MD, WHO deputy director-general, emergency preparedness and response.

The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck, was tested during the Ebola crisis in Guinea and is the most effective one produced thus far.

The director-general noted that DRC has lots of experiencing combating Ebola.

By the time the Ebola outbreak was recognized in Guinea in March 2014, almost 60 people had already died.

The WHO and others have deployed many experts to the area, including epidemiologists, people skilled at contact tracing, and anthropologists who are already learning about local customs. The virus spreads through bodily fluids, including vomit and blood.

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