World Health Organization arranging to send experimental Ebola vaccine to Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A race against the clock has begun to contain an outbreak of Ebola in a remote northern area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

So far two cases have been confirmed, at least 18 others are suspected and three people have died in north-eastern Bas-Uele province.

So far, he told reporters, no other deaths have been reported, but the World Health Organization thinks that there are at least 20 cases of the Zaire strain of Ebola, with two confirmed so far by laboratory testing.

"However, we can not underestimate the logistical and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote, insecure part of the country", said Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program.

The campaign against the virus is expected to cost 10 million dollars over the next six months, according to WHO.

He also said there are only 20 kilometres of paved roads in that area and virtually no functional telecommunications.

He said the team is now financed by the ministry.

And on May 12, World Health Organization said that the GAVI global vaccine alliance has some 300,000 emergency doses of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck and could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak.

"WHO and other NCDC partners are committed to continued support to the country in its efforts to ensure its health security is protected".

The vaccinations, which will not be provided to the general population but only to current cases' contacts, need to be kept at -80 degrees centigrade. "[We are] putting all these preparations in place so it can go at that speed as soon as we get the green light".

Salama said that aid workers had reached a town in the Likati zone, which was as close as they had been able to come to the epicenter of the outbreak.

The first Ebola treatment center was recently established in Likati, and the construction and deployment of a mobile lab is in process.

"There is another outbreak being tracked", said Salama, but noted that the reports of over 30 cases of deadly diarrhea could be caused by Shigella.

"Risk at the regional level is moderate due to the proximity of worldwide borders and the recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic", the organization said, but it nonetheless described the global risk as low because the area is so remote.

But, he added, "we have also learned never, ever to underestimate the Ebola virus diseases, and we will be remaining vigilant".

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