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Ebola vaccinations begin in rural Congo on Monday: Ministry

Ebola vaccinations begin in rural Congo on Monday: Ministry

Soon after the Ebola outbreak was declared May 8, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and several associates went to the region to assess the situation. Until officials can properly trace the people that the deceased victims came into contact with, they are focusing their efforts on the relatives who cared for them. "And we hope others will do the same", Azar added.

This was the ninth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the virus was first discovered there in 1976, when it was still called Zaire.

The WHO chief also underlined that the coordination among worldwide health partners was essential, too, before highlighting that even he had problems in accessing rural Bikoro to see the problem first-hand, during his visit to the area shortly after the beginning of the outbreak.

"We're on the epidemiological knife edge of this response", he added at the United Nations body's annual assembly.

"All it takes is one sick person to travel down the Congo River and we can have outbreaks seeded in many different locations. that can happen at any moment".

The Reuters report also had more details about the two patients who left an Ebola isolation unit in Mbandaka, the heavily populated Equateur province capital.

On Tuesday, Congo's health ministry announced six new confirmed Ebola cases and two new suspected cases as vaccinations entered the second day in an effort to contain the deadly virus in a city of more than one million.

"I think that what we're seeing is that we're taking it very seriously from Day One", he said.

Congo's health ministry said there are now 28 confirmed Ebola cases, 21 probable ones and two suspected.

"It's really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak".

Ebola is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

The WHO said health workers were following up on three separate transmission chains for cases in Mbandaka's Wangata neighbourhood - one linked to a funeral, one to a church and another to a rural health facility. Health officials administered an experimental vaccine on Monday to 33 medical workers and Mbandaka residents, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva. More than 7,500 doses of the vaccine have been sent to DRC.

"This is not mass immunization", he noted.

Prototype vaccine will first be given to frontline health workers and then to people who have been in contact with Ebola cases.

Salama said this is the same approach used in the 1970s for the elimination of smallpox.

The UN health agency also said an Ebola contingency plan is being updated to strengthen readiness capacities while surveillance officers at points of entry have been alerted and supported to enhance early detection of cases. The Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, which have land and river borders with the affected areas, are at particular risk as there is a constant movement of people between the countries. Also, the worldwide community and global health groups have stepped forward with $59.6 million in support for the DRC's outbreak, far exceeding the WHO's May 18 request of $26 million to support its activities.

"We are helping countries to pre-position the supplies that they will need, including personal protective equipment, infra-red thermometers, rapid diagnostic test kits and other critical supplies", said Moeti.

The WHO has yet to declare the outbreak an emergency after hearing from officials in the DRC.

"It is not over yet", he cautioned.

"The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control", he added.

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