The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Sunday that it is preparing to deploy 4,000 doses of an Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the country experiences its ninth outbreak of the deadly virus.
"We’re working on the deployment of these materials, especially readying the cold chain," WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti told Reuters. "The start date of the vaccinations will depend on this deployment."
Initial symptoms of the Ebola virus include sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. Then comes vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and potentially internal and external bleeding, according to the WHO.
The virus was first discovered in 1976 with two outbreaks in what is now Nzara, South Sudan, and Yambuku, DRC, near the Ebola River.
A 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa killed more than 11,300 people across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. It infected some 28,600, according to Africa News.
The new Ebola vaccine was proven safe and effective in 2016.
#Ebola response in #DRC: WHO is working with the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to gather and test samples, conduct contact tracing and improve data collection and management https://t.co/02Z0jfMFxapic.twitter.com/x6ZNhvWsqF— WHO (@WHO) May 13, 2018
This vaccine could be a monumental win in ensuring global health, as it could greatly reduce the number of deaths associated with Ebola. Right now, Ebola kills about half of the people it infects.
An important concern in the DRC today is that the virus could spread to the nearby provincial capital Mbandaka.
"We’re concerned because this is a city of one million people," Moeti said.
Moeti said the WHO traced about 362 people who were in contact with those who were sick, and that two of those contacts had made it to Mbandaka.
The outbreak area is also close to the Congo River, which is a vital transport route to DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, and to nearby Congo Republic’s capital Brazzaville, which makes containing this epidemic all the more pressing.
It is believed that Ebola primarily spreads through bats, infecting people through contact with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids of infected animals, according to the WHO.
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