Over 70,000 vaccinated against Ebola as outbreak marches on

DR Congo Ebola treatment center
DR Congo Ebola treatment center

Health workers at an Ebola treatment center in Butembo., © UNICEF / Nybo

More than 70,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have now been vaccinated with VSV-EBOV, Merck's unlicensed Ebola vaccine, according to today's update from DRC health officials.

The vaccine recipients span 28 health zones in four provinces of the DRC, mostly in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where ring vaccination campaigns began last August. As of today, 70,611 people have been vaccinated, including 20,321 in Beni, 16,657 in Katwa, 7,939 in Butembo, 6,008 in Mabalako, 2,656 in Kalunguta, and 2,110 in Komanda.

Though experts have called the campaign a success, the outbreak shows no signs of slowing. Today, the DRC confirmed 7 new cases, bringing the total number to 759, including 468 deaths.

Nearly 200 cases under investigation

Of the seven new cases, six are in Katwa and one is in Butembo. Katwa is the latest hot spot for Ebola activity, where several cases have been confirmed each day in the past week.

As has been the trend for the past several months, dozens of people—today the number stands at 178—are still under investigation for possible Ebola infections.

There were three new deaths reported by the DRC, including one community death in Katwa and two deaths in Beni and Katwa that took place in an Ebola treatment center (ETC). Deaths in the community—versus in an ETC or hospital—raise the risk of transmission because of added exposure.

The DRC also said a new eight-bed ETC in Kayina opened yesterday. This is the tenth ECT built  during this outbreak, and Kayina joins Beni, Bunia, Butembo, Goma, Katwa, Komanda, Mandima, Mangina, and Tchomia in having its own ETC.

Cross-border concerns

Katwa was also at the center of a possible international Ebola incident, when a man and a woman—contacts of confirmed Ebola cases in Katwa—crossed into Uganda through the Kasindi point of entry.

The two people were under daily follow-up in the DRC but managed evade surveillance and cross into Uganda because they did not have any symptoms, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an update today.

"Uganda's surveillance system immediately swung into action using health workers, security personnel, immigration officers and Village Health Teams (VHTs) among others to look for the duo," the WHO said. "But on 30th January 2019, the two were located in one of the suburbs of Kampala. They were in good health with no signs and symptom for EVD [Ebola virus disease] and they have completed the 21-days mandatory follow-up for all EVD contacts."

The WHO said the event is a wakeup call that Ebola was just "a few hours away" from Kampala or other major cities near the DRC.

See also:

Jan 31 DRC update

Jan 31 WHO story

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