WHO preparing authorisation, logistics for Ebola vaccination in Congo if needed

An man is treated for Ebola in The Democratic Republic of Congo

An man is treated for Ebola in The Democratic Republic of Congo

Health officials are investigating 17 other suspected cases, Dr. Ernest Dabire, WHO's health cluster coordinator, said Sunday in Kinshasa. So far, the agency provided information for only three suspected cases: The possible index patient presented with symptoms on April 22 and died upon arrival to a local health facility in Likati health zone, Bas Uele province, in the northern part of the DRC.

In 2014, several people died due to the outbreak that affected Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea but since June a year ago, these countries were declared Ebola free.

The trial was led by WHO, together with Guinea's Ministry of Health, Medecins sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, in collaboration with other global partners.

Congo, whose dense forests contain the River Ebola near where the disease was first detected in 1976, has experienced many outbreaks and has mostly succeeded in containing them without large-scale loss of life. Last year World Health Organization said the outbreak had subsided.

The National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa on May 11 confirmed one positive case among the five samples collected.

The first case was confirmed on Friday in Bas-Uele province in the north-east.

While news reports point out that the last outbreak was a tragic episode in West Africa, the only similarity between the two outbreaks is the virus.

The latest Ebola outbreak is Congo's eighth, the most of any country.

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Three people have already died in a new outbreak.

"The health zone is situated in the remote, isolated and hard-to-reach northern part of the country, with limited transport and communication networks - factors that all impeded transmission of information about the suspected outbreak".

The 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, which resulted in more than 11 300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine.

"We have tightened all the 10 provinces, including those that do not border with the DRC, with Ebola preparedness and surveillance interventions to ensure alertness as a country", he said.

People can only catch Ebola by coming into contact with the bodily fluids - urine, vomit, diarrhoea - of an infected individual.

While it appears unlikely that the situation in Congo will be anywhere near as deadly as the 2014 West African outbreak, health authorities are taking nothing for granted.

The disease had ravaged Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and was only recently contained in these countries.

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