Four more Ebola cases reported as outbreak marches on

UN and Congolese troops in DRC
UN and Congolese troops in DRC

MONUSCO / Force / Flickr cc

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) Ebola dashboard reflects 4 new cases today, raising the outbreak total to 3,324, including 2,206 deaths, a sign that the violence of November has indeed extended the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is now in its 16th month.

A total of 391 suspected cases are still under investigation.

In an update yesterday, the DRC's technical committee on Ebola response (CMRE) said response activities are still "paralyzed in Beni, Mangina, and Biakato sub-coordination for security reasons."

Relapse or reinfection?

Yesterday, Reuters reported that, for the second time in this outbreak, an Ebola survivor appears to have either relapsed or become reinfected with the deadly virus. A previous patient in July died that month from what was also presumed to be a relapse or reinfection, calling into question the assumption that Ebola survivors have lifelong immunity from the virus.

According to Reuters, the current patient is from Mabalako, but Congolese health officials have yet to release any other details. Rarely, the virus can lay dormant in a person's immune system.

In the latest weekly update from the WHO’s African regional office, the WHO said seven Ebola cases have been reported in the first week of December, all in Beni, Mabalako, Mandima, and Oicha.

"The general decline in reported new cases has continued, although with response activities compromised in Beni, Butembo and Mangina, it is possible that cases and community deaths  have not been recorded," the WHO said. "The trend, especially for this and the coming weeks, should be interpreted cautiously as we watch the impact of the disruption in response operations due to heightened insecurity and civil unrest."

J&J vaccine launches in Rwanda

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was launched in Rwanda yesterday. According to a press statement from Bavarian Nordic, that company, with its partner Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, will provide up to 200,000 regimens of its investigational Ebola vaccine, Ad26.ZEBOV, MVA-BN Filo, to Rwanda to support a new immunization program led by the Rwanda government.

"We applaud the decision by the Rwandan authorities to introduce the Janssen/Bavarian Nordic vaccine to help prevent the Ebola virus from spreading in to the country, and we are proud to be a contributing partner in the development of a vaccine which is now actively being used in large-scale efforts to contain the virus in both the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda," said Paul Chaplin, president and CEO of Bavarian Nordic, in a press release.

According to the CMRE, as of Dec 6, 1,300 people have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A total of 256,229 people have been vaccinated with Merck's VSV-ZEBOV vaccine, which was introduced during the first weeks of the outbreak in August 2018. 

See also:

WHO Ebola dashboard

Dec 8 CMRE update

Dec 9 Reuters story

Dec 9 WHO Africa regional update

Dec 9 Bavarian Nordic press release

This week's top reads