Latest Congo Ebola outbreak is Zaire strain, vaccinations to start

The latest flare-up was announced one week after Congo’s government declared the end of another outbreak in northwestern Congo

DRC on Wednesday last week confirmed an outbreak of Ebola in Beni, North Kivu, about 100 km from the Ugandan border post of Mpondwe in Kasese.

The experimental new vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical company Merck, was deemed successful in its first wide-scale test against a separate recent Ebola outbreak in the country's northwest, Reuters reports.

Mabalako became the second territory, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has numbers of patients suffering from Ebola virus, which unleashed on August 1 the tenth epidemic since its discovery in 1976. WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says some of the people exposed to the deadly Ebola virus might be living in conflict zones and armed guards may have to be used to protect the health workers.

"In total, 43 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, including 16 confirmed and 27 probable, and 31 suspected cases are under investigation", the ministry said. There also is frequent cross-border trade with Uganda, which could complicate containment of the disease.

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Health experts in Beni are setting up "cold chains", a series of measures to keep the vaccines at the optimal temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 158 degrees Fahrenheit) before they can travel from the capital, Kinshasa, to the Beni region in eastern Congo, which has unreliable power supplies and hot temperatures, said Tambwe.

World Health Organization has said 3,000 doses of the vaccine are still in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, and that it can access up to 300,000 more on short notice. The Ebola virus has a fatality rate of around 50%.

"Since we are coming out of another Ebola outbreak, we have kept staff and equipment in place", said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa in a WHO statement: "This allows us to have a head start in response to this cluster".

Despite that Ebola is never an easy illness to combat, the current outbreak is much more hard than previous ones primarily because of the location in which it appeared.

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