Some 2,000 healthcare and frontline workers in South Sudan are to be offered Ebola vaccines to stop importation of the viral disease from DR Congo, the World Health Organisation said.
South Sudan is one of three countries – with Uganda and Rwanda – the WHO said are “at very high risk” of having Ebola imported from the outbreak in eastern Congo.
The outbreak, concentrated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, is now the second biggest in history and has so far infected at least 450 people and killed at least 270 of them, WHO and Congo health officials said.
In South Sudan, teams of vaccinators trained by global health agencies are ready to conduct the Ebola vaccination plan, the WHO said in a statement. It is scheduled to start in Juba on December 19.
Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids. It causes haemorrhagic fever with severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding and in outbreaks more than half the cases are fatal.
The WHO said South Sudan was on “high alert” for the disease, but no confirmed cases had been detected there.
The experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV made by Merck, targets the Zaire strain of the virus which is the one causing Congo’s current outbreak.
It is designed for use in a “ring vaccination” strategy, where contacts or known cases of Ebola are traced and immunised to halt the disease’s spread.
Just over 2,100 doses of rVSV-ZEBOV are allocated to South Sudan and those vaccinated will be followed up and monitored for a at least 21 days, the WHO said.