DR Congo Ebola outbreak reaches 300 cases

Alicia Farmer
November 8, 2018

The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.November 7, 2018 / 4:30 PM GMTBy Maggie FoxHealth workers started vaccinating people in Uganda against Ebola virus on Wednesday, the first time the vaccine has been given in a country before an outbreak even starts.Officials are afraid the virus is going to spread across the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak is still worsening, fueled by armed conflict and frightened residents.

This precaution is being taken because the health care officials are anxious that the infection would spread into the country from the borders shared with Democratic Republic of Congo. They say unofficial border crossings also are a cause for concern.

Officials fear the epidemic will spread from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and are implementing the plan so healthcare workers don't catch the virus and spread it.

The minister explained that the vaccine is only available for frontline health workers who are at high risk of contracting EVD as they manage suspected cases. Several studies have shown that the vaccine is safe and protects against the Ebola virus, the World Health Organization said in a statement. The individuals in DRC who have been in contact with an Ebola patient have been vaccinated and those in contact with these contacts have also been vaccinated.

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The vaccinations are crucial to stemming transmission "in a highly endemic belt for hemorrhagic fevers", said Anthony Mbonye, a professor of health sciences at Uganda's Makerere University. The affected areas in the DRC [North Kivu and Ituri provinces] are about 100km from Uganda's border districts. Some civilians with Ebola have refused treatment, and healthcare workers are still being infected.

Ebola is a deadly viral infection that was first detected and identified in 1976. In 2000 and 2001, 574 people were infected and 261 died in Uganda. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries. Since 2014, about 2,000 people have been killed in clashes between armed groups. Once infected only management available is supportive therapy.

Although the "investigational vaccine" has not yet been licensed it was used in previous Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and DR Congo at the recommendation of the WHO's group of experts.

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