Ebola vaccinations begin in rural Congo on Monday: Ministry

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has deployed 25 epidemiologists to Mbandaka and Bikoro to support the government’s surveillance work

Congo Ebola vaccination campaign rolled out

The death toll in an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rose to 26 on May 21, 2018, after a person died in the northwest city of Mbandaka, the government said, as it began vaccinating first responders against the dreaded disease. "One associated with a funeral that took place in a neighbouring town of Bikoro; one associated with a visit to a health care facility more than 80 kilometres away in the small village of Iboko and one where we're still gathering data on that's related to a church ceremony".

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Now comes the challenge of determining who the patients may have come into contact with once they left the hospital in the city of more than 1 million people.

"In all three cases every effort was made by staff at the hospital to convince the patients - and their families - not to leave and to continue their treatment", Slater said.

MSF is warning against seeing "forced hospitalization" as the solution to the outbreak.

One patient had been about to be discharged, he said.

Doctors are especially anxious because, with a population of over 1 million people, Mbandaka is extremely susceptible to a fast-moving Ebola outbreak.

Ebola is a fearsome disease but it is also still rare, making the potential market for an emergency vaccine highly sporadic and very likely unprofitable. Meanwhile, millions of dollars from the Congolese government and worldwide aid have been allocated to combat the spread of the deadly disease, including up to $8 million from the U.S. Agency for global Development.

"It's very hard to predict", he said, referring to the river linking the trading hub of Mbandaka to the capital Kinshasa, whose population is 10 million.

"In the next five days 100 people must be vaccinated, including 70 health professionals", Health Minister Oly Ilunga said.

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"It is unfortunate but not unexpected".

"We want to ensure that ports and airports are effectively protected", he said.

The US government has added $7 million to the initial $1 million it previously committed to fighting the virus in Congo, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Tuesday.

Congo's Ministry of Health said Thursday the number of confirmed Ebola cases has reached 30, including 8 deaths in the 3 affected health zones in the country's Equateur province.

Latest data from health authorities in the DRC, indicates a total of 52 cases of Ebola in the north-west of the country; 31 of these are confirmed, 13 are probable and eight are suspect.

Congo shares borders with nine nations, and World Health Organization has warned those countries to be on high alert for cases.

A laboratory worker uses a microscope at the health centre in the commune of Wangata during a vaccination campaign against the outbreak of Ebola, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 23, 2018. Several suspected cases have also been recorded there, according to the country's health ministry. It spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids or objects contaminated by someone ill with the disease. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases, depending on the strain.

The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth, and can also spread through sexual contact.

A wave of panic briefly hit Kinshasa on Wednesday after rumors spread that an Ebola case had been admitted to the Kinshasa General Hospital.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has provided more than 8,000 doses of its experimental Ebola vaccine and will make an additional 8,000 doses available to World Health Organization in the coming days. WHO is working with the country's Ministry of Health, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and other partners to inoculate only those people at high risk of infection: primary and secondary contacts.

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