Ebola patients flee hospital isolation ward as virus reaches Mbandaka

Members of a Red Cross team don protective clothing before heading out to look for suspected victims of Ebola

"We do need to work to support innovation'". "But they rely on those other things, and we need to make sure that both are going in parallel".

Allarangar, speaking to reporters in the capital Kinshasa, said the two patients had left the hospital with the help of family members before heading to a "place of prayer". Thousands of doses of this vaccine are now being targeted at those most at risk in the DRC.

"We are on the epidemiological knife edge", Salama told a special meeting of World Health Organization member states in Geneva on Wednesday.

In another development, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) today said the United States is playing a less prominent role in the response, a sign that suggests the worldwide response is more prepared to tackle such outbreaks but also raises questions about the nation's mixed signals regarding global health security.

He said it's hard to contain disease in big cities and that Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people, is right on the Congo River, an important transportation route.

The latest figures bring the number of people who have died showing Ebola infection symptoms up to 23, after the inclusion of the latest confirmed death, which occurred in the western Iboko region.

In addition to the confirmed Ebola cases there are also 13 probable cases and six suspected ones, the health ministry said.

World Health Organization also is accelerating efforts with nine countries neighboring Congo to try to prevent the Ebola outbreak from spreading there, saying the regional risk is high.

The vaccine, provided by USA company Merck, is still in the test stages but it was effective toward the end of the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from 2014 to 2016. Some 8,000 to 10,000 people will first receive the vaccine.

Communicating safe behaviour to the population is also vital, Salama said, recalling that Ebola spreads through physical contact, including sexual contact, and that the virus can survive in the sperm of Ebola survivors for months and even years after they recover.

Prototype vaccine will first be given to frontline health workers and then to people who have been in contact with Ebola cases.

Pastors at churches have been encouraging people "pray away" the Ebola instead of receiving vaccines. "It is documenting how people are getting infected and, therefore, managing control, the control of transmission".

WHO and the governments are working to roll out "pre-position" supplies that might be needed if the virus spreads, WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti told a World Health Assembly session.

Health workers find themselves having to strike a delicate balance: restricting Ebola patients' movements but without antagonising communities whose cooperation is vital.

In the real world, no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

Following the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone 2014-2016, the United Kingdom focussed on establishing better worldwide global health preparedness and crisis response mechanisms which could be mobilised rapidly.

Another risk: No one knows how long protection with this vaccine lasts.

The news follows reports three Ebola patients escaped quarantine in Mbandaka, two of which have died.

Another communication challenge Berkley foresees stems from the fact that the vaccination effort is not a mass vaccination campaign. "And so education is going to be very important".

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. And that is part of the plan in DRC, Berkley said.

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