WHO eyes vaccine trial for Ebola-hit DR Congo

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has resulted in 20 suspected cases and three deaths, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Priorities now include a heavy focus on surveillance: getting the best information about the people who have been affected and tracking those who may have been affected, as well as managing and isolating Ebola cases and engaging local communities.

The African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently activated its Emergency Operational Centre in response to the recently-declared Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in order to develop a concept of operations for the emergency. Peter Salama, the WHO's executive director for health emergencies, said the agency's risk assessment on the outbreak was that it is high at a national level, medium at African regional level and low at global level.

A 39-year-old experienced vomiting and bleeding and died on the way to the hospital in the Likati area of Bas Uele Province. The person caring for him and a motorcyclist who transported him also died.

"However we can not underestimate the logistic and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote, insecure part of the country", he said.

"As of now we do not know the full extent of the outbreak".

An experimental vaccine has been developed since the West African epidemic in 2014-2016 that left more than 11,000 people dead, but World Health Organization said it is still awaiting permission from the Congolese government to use it. In a statement in 2015, WHO said the incident "served as a reminder that the world, including WHO, is ill-prepared for a large and sustained disease outbreak".

All told, the first six months of the response to the outbreak is likely to cost some $10 million, Salama said.

Salama said an experimental vaccine against Ebola, dubbed rVSV-ZEBOV, could be used in this outbreak, if local authorities agree to allow it.

During that epidemic, a vaccine made by Merck was successfully tested in hard-hit Guinea. "In an area without telecommunications, without road access, without large-scale electrification, this is going to be an enormous challenge", he said. "They have been the people who are leading surveillance in the country", Moeti said.

"The challenge is getting to the cases", said Moeti, when addressing the possible risk of the virus spreading to other parts of the country. "We're expecting to get to the epicenter by the weekend".