Ebola vaccination set to start in DR Congo amid rising number of cases | Africa | DW | 20.05.2018
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Africa

Ebola vaccination set to start in DR Congo amid rising number of cases

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are to start a vaccination campaign to contain an Ebola outbreak. The dangerous virus is spreading, with at least 21 people contracting the disease.

Congolese authorities will begin administering an experimental Ebola vaccine on Monday in Mbandaka, a northwestern city of 1.2 million people, where the lethal virus has claimed the life of one person.

The number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased to 21 – many of them in Mbandaka – and the risk of the deadly virus spreading further has been dubbed "high."

Read more: Congolese health officials confirm three new cases of Ebola

Mbandaka is just an hour's flight from the capital Kinshasa

Mbandaka is just an hour's flight from the capital Kinshasa

Health workers with World Health Organization (WHO) officials are trying to contain the disease.

"The vaccination campaign begins tomorrow, Monday, in Mbandaka, capital of the province [Equateur province]. It will target, first, the health staff, the contacts of the sick and the contacts of the contacts," Minister of Health Oly Ilunga said on Sunday.

The vaccination drive will initially target 600 people.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said Sunday that 4,000 doses of vaccines were shipped on Sunday to the city. The WHO confirmed dispatching 7,450 vaccine doses to Congo, but government officials said they needed a total of 300,000 vaccines.

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WHO raises threat level of Ebola in DR Congo

DRC's President Joseph Kabila agreed to increase funds for the Ebola emergency to $4 million (€3.4 million).

Ebola is a near-fatal disease that causes a hemorrhagic fever that often leads to massive internal bleeding.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in four decades. The last major Ebola outbreak hit the eastern African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014, killing some 11,000 people.

Read more:

High risk of Ebola spreading in DR Congo and across its borders

Ebola: WHO raises Congo risk to 'very high'

'Vigorous response' needed

Health officials are trying to locate more than 500 people who they believe have been in contact with those feared infected. But the task is extremely challenging in Mbandaka, a densely populated city that is an hour's flight from the capital Kinshasa. It lies near the confluence of the Congo and Ruki Rivers.

As of May 15, health officials had identified 527 contacts between people believed to be infected with Ebola.

Despite the rapid spread of the disease, the WHO on Friday decided against declaring an international health emergency.

There is "strong reason to believe this situation can be brought under control," said Dr. Robert Steffen, who chaired the WHO expert meeting on Friday. But without a vigorous response "the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly," he added.

Read more: Ebola outbreak in DRC: What is being done?

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Q&A with DW's Helena Humphrey on the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC.

shs/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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