WHO confirmed today that the latest Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, is unrelated to the previous outbreak that was declared over just 2 weeks ago.
Peter Salama, MBBS, MPH, WHO deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said genetic analysis showed no close link with the recent outbreak in DRC’s Équateur province.
Salama also confirmed that the country’s 10th Ebola outbreak is being caused by the Zaire strain of the virus, meaning Merck’s experimental vaccine can be used.
“We can start using rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine as early as tomorrow,” Salama tweeted.
The outbreak was announced on Aug. 1, when the Ministry of Health informed WHO that four patient samples had tested positive for Ebola virus. At that time, 20 people had died, including a heath care worker. As of Aug. 6, WHO said there have been 43 cases —16 confirmed and 27 probable — with 34 deaths.
Most cases are centered in the Mangina health area, roughly 30 kilometers from the city of Beni. Officials have said 10 locations are affected, many near forests and borders, with Uganda’s border being only 50 kilometers away from one infected area. According to WHO, 30 employees are either on the ground in Beni and Mangina or on their way. Treatment centers are being set up in both places.
Currently, officials are working on tracing contacts, preventing and controlling infections, isolating patients and providing outreach to the affected and surrounding communities. WHO said more than 900 contacts have been registered.
Officials have 3,000 doses of the vaccine on hand. According to WHO, a team of vaccination experts will be deployed to support a ring vaccination. An ultra-cold chain arrived in Beni on Aug. 5 to store the vaccine. – by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosure: Salama works for WHO.