Ebola outbreak: World Health Organization gets approval to use experimental vaccine in DRC


The latest outbreak is occurring in the northwest of country, in the Bikoro health zone, 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) from Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur province.

At present, the outbreak did not meet the criteria for declaring a "public health event of global concern", which would trigger the formation of an emergency WHO committee.

This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified. "We already have three separate locations that are reporting cases", said the WHO's deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, Peter Salama.

Information about the extent of the outbreak is still limited and investigations are ongoing.

The current outbreak is unrelated to the one in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that killed more than 11,000 people in 2014 and 2015.

According to the World Health Organization statement, there was a case fatality rate of almost 50 percent. The experimental vaccine is thought to be highly effective.

"Had a vaccine been available earlier in the Ebola epidemic, thousands of lives might have been saved", Jeremy Farrar, director of the British medical research institute Wellcome Trust, told the BBC in December 2016. And as you know that vaccine is safe and efficacious and has been already tested.

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"The vaccination campaign starts next week, everything depends on the logistics because the vaccine must be kept at minus 60 degrees Celsius, and we need to assure that the cold chain is assured from Geneva to Bikoro", she said.

As STAT News' Helen Branswell notes, the World Health Organization plans to employ a "ring vaccination" process, administering the vaccine to anyone who may have had contact with the infected individuals.

The WHO is planning to begin a vaccination campaign in the area, near the border with the Republic of Congo, using an available stockpile of an experimental vaccine.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever that predominantly affects humans and nonhuman primates, like monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees, according to the CDC.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission, either through direct contact with bodily fluids such as blood or secretions or contact with materials that are contaminated with these liquids.

In regards to human-to-human contact, the organisation says that healthy individuals should use gloves and proper equipment when in contact with infected individuals.