Uganda to vaccinate health workers amid contagion fears along DRC border

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It is one of the world's most virulent diseases and is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of infected people.

Robert Redfield, MD, director for the CDC, said November 5 that if the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola outbreak becomes more serious, worldwide public health experts should consider the possibility it can't be brought under control, according to The Washington Post. They say unofficial border crossings also are a cause for concern.

As the North Kivu province Ebola outbreak enters its fourth month, global health officials are worrying if the combination of violence and insecurity in the area will render this outbreak past the point of control.

In DRC till date, this season, around 300 cases of Ebola have been suspected with 265 confirmed cases of the disease.

The World Health Organization, CDC and other worldwide health organizations say they are anxious about the current Ebola outbreak spreading to port cities like Butembo, which will only exacerbate infection transmission rates.

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"There are areas that are very hard to access and in dealing with Ebola you need to be able to isolate patients, as well as contact tracing, to be following all of the contacts of different people, and safe and dignified burials", added Tricia Norwood, an Doctors Without Borders official based in Bunia in eastern DRC, near the Ugandan border.

"Currently 2,100 doses of the rVSV vaccine are available", Aceng said, with plans in place to increase that to 3,000. The affected areas in the DRC [North Kivu and Ituri provinces] are about 100km from Uganda's border districts. "This context puts the healthcare and frontline workers in Uganda at risk of being in contact with an [Ebola] case".

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Congo, and gets its name from a river in the latter nation. Since then there have been regular outbreaks across Central and West African countries.

The current Ebola outbreak is unfolding in an active war zone with several armed groups attacking health officials, government aids and civilians. In 2000 and 2001, 574 people were infected and 261 died in Uganda. There are some experimental antibody based therapies that are being tried in treating the disease.

The vaccine is only used under "compassionate use" although it is not commercially licensed.

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