DRC has seen 18 deaths over the past five weeks, but Congolese authorities together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global groups have now mobilized staff and resources to contain the virus. The Guinea field trial in 2016 found the vaccine to be 100 percent effective at preventing infection among the 6,000 people who received it.
According to both Stat and Reuters, the DRC granted the World Health Organization approval to use the investigational recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus-Zaire Ebola virus (rVSV-ZEBOV) in a ring vaccination targeting close contacts of Ebola patients. Of the 34 suspected cases, two were confirmed, 18 have been classified as probable and 12 remains suspected cases. Since the first recorded outbreaks in the 1970s, most have been both vicious and short-lived, with the very remoteness of the landscape and the means of viral transmission (through direct contact with the body fluids of infected patients) providing a kind of natural buffer.
The outbreak is now confined to the Bikoro, Iboko, and Wangata health zones, in Equateur province. However, it is being taken very seriously given the recent history of Ebola outbreaks and proximity of this area to the Congo River, linking local populations to the major cities of Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Bangui. Three healthcare workers are reportedly also sickened with the disease.
Any other persons with potential exposure to Ebola, such as laboratory workers, surveillance and contact teams, will also be vaccinated. But the vaccine is still experimental as it does not have a licence. In addition, the United Nations granted $2 million and the Welcome Trust provided £2 million pounds ($2.71 million) for research needs.
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The World Health Organisation obtained 4,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine and was preparing for deployment in Congo, its Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.
Transporting the vaccines to the affected area would be logistically challenging.
This is the DRC's ninth Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the virus in the country in 1976. "It's a highly complex operation in one of the most hard terrains in the world".
The Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is coordinating the response. The epicenter, a town called Bikoro, is hard to reach by vehicle because of poor roads between it and the regional capital, Mbandaka.