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Ebola vaccines arrive in Congo as disease spreads

Ebola vaccines arrive in Congo as disease spreads

WHO says it will use the "ring vaccination" method by administering the treatment to voluntary contacts, and contacts of those contacts, besides health workers.

Residents of Bikoro, Iboko and Wangata health zones in Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of Congo heaved a sigh of relief after the first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak of Ebola arrived the country.

According to the World Health Organization's Peter Salama, health workers had "identified 430 people who may have had contact with the disease and were working to trace more than 4,000 contacts of Ebola patients, who had spread across northwest Congo", read a BBC report. They would be kept in Kinshasa until a refrigerated transportation chain could be guaranteed. So far, 23 people are known to have died while 42 others have been infected since the outbreak started earlier this month.

"We are entering a new phase of the Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban health zone", he said, adding he is anxious because Mbandaka is densely populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.

Before Wednesday's announcement, there had been only two cases of the virus confirmed by lab tests.

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The experimental vaccine was shown to be highly effective in Guinea in 2015 during the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Until now, all the confirmed Ebola cases were reported from Bikoro health zone, which is also in Equateur Province but at a distance of almost 150 km from Mbandaka. The health body also sent 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities. After analysis, one of the two samples was positive, "said Congolese Minister of Health Orly Ilunga in a statement released late Wednesday night".

The vaccine requires storage at a temperature between -60 and -80 degrees C, tricky in a country with unreliable electricity.

This follows the spread of the virus from the countryside into a city. Among those are three confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspected cases.

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