The World Health Organization says vaccinations are expected to begin this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday, to help stem the latest Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The outbreak is spreading through five health zones in North Kivu province and one health zone in Ituri province, which poses geographic and political challenges, the WHO said. The experimental vaccine, which is manufactured by Merck, proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against the previous outbreak in Equateur Province.
The total death toll has reached seven from 16 confirmed cases, the ministry said in a bulletin on Monday.
The Ministry of Health has asked health workers to enhance their surveillance following a fresh Ebola outbreak in neigbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
That outbreak more than 2,500 kilometres away had 33 confirmed Ebola deaths.
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But the new outbreak in the East of the DRC is on track to dwarf the one that sparked global panic in earlier this summer in the North West.
Forty-six other suspected cases are being investigated, including 25 in Beni, a trading hub of several hundred thousand people, the ministry said in a statement. Of the three healthcare workers who were affected, one has died.
More than 900 contacts have been traced and registered in affected zones, as health workers take steps to stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring regions and countries. Using hi tech protective gear and technology, life-threatening pathogens like the Ebola virus can be safely diagnosed and researched at centers like these.
North Kivu, which borders Uganda and Rwanda, is a resource-rich province in which more than 100 armed groups operate, according to Human Rights Watch.
Despite that Ebola is never an easy illness to combat, the current outbreak is much more hard than previous ones primarily because of the location in which it appeared.