DRC Ebola Outbreak: WHO-donated Experimental Vaccine Doses Arrive

The news comes as the virus has spread to the city of Mbandaka.

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There is some respite for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, after the first doses of a trial Ebola vaccine donated by the World Health Organisation, WHO, to contain the current outbreak in Bikoro in the northern Equateur Province arrived in the country on May 16, 2018.

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Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on May 17, 2018 called an emergency meeting to discuss the risk of Ebola spreading abroad DRC, the BBC reported.

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The first clinical trials of the vaccine proved to be effective in West Africa during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people. The World Health Organization has sent the first 4,000 doses of the Ebola vaccine, developed by Merck, which officials hope can contain the latest outbreak.

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However, the good news comes as DRC authorities on May 17, 2018 announced that the Ebola outbreak has spread from Bikoro to Mbandaka city, prompting fears that the disease will become more difficult to control.

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Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga confirmed a case in Mbandaka, a city of a million people about 130 km from the area where the first cases were confirmed earlier last month.

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Mbandaka is a major transportation hub with routes to the capital, Kinshasa. Some 42 people have now been infected and 23 people are known to have died since the latest epidemic broke out.

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“This is a major development in the outbreak. We have urban Ebola, which is a very different animal from rural Ebola. The potential for an explosive increase in cases is now there,” commented Peter Salama, a senior World Health Organization official on news of the spread of the epidemic to Mbandaka.

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Salama, the WHO's Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response, said Mbandaka's location on River Congo, widely used for transportation, raises the prospects of Ebola spreading to neighbouring countries like Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic; as well as downstream to DRC capital, Kinshasa - a city of 10 million people.

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There have been 9 Ebola outbreaks since the disease was first discovered in DRC (formerly Zaire) 40 years ago. Experts say because the disease is endemic to the country, it is not possible to eradicate all the animals who might be a host for the virus. As long as humans come in contact with such animals, there is always a possibility of Ebola outbreak.

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