Medical workers in Democratic Republic of Congo have given all immediate contacts of Ebola patients in Mbandaka an experimental vaccine as they try to thwart a disease that has killed around 25 people, the health ministry said.
Ebola spreads easily through bodily fluids and the medical strategy involves vaccinating all people a patient may have infected and then vaccinating a second “ring” of contacts around each potential sufferer.
That would include family members and people who may have come into contact with a sufferer in church or on public transport, each a potential Ebola time-bomb who must be found and vaccinated by virus-hunting experts.
The VSV-EBOV vaccine, developed by Merck, has been administered to 1,112 people, including 567 in the north-western city. That covers all known contacts of confirmed Ebola cases in the city as well as those peoples’ contacts, the ministry said in a statement.
There have been no new deaths from Ebola since May 25 and the last confirmed case was recorded on May 29, although health officials say it is too soon to make any definitive pronouncements about the outbreak’s course.
The latest data from the health ministry shows 53 cases in the outbreak, including 37 confirmed, 13 probable and three suspected cases.
A new suspected case was recorded on Monday in rural Iboko and five suspected cases came back negative, the health ministry said.
This is the ninth outbreak of Ebola in Congo since the disease was first detected in 1976. Health officials moved aggressively to head off a repeat of the 2013-16 outbreak in West Africa that killed over 11,000 people.
The vaccine was first rolled out in Mbandaka on May 21 and hailed as a paradigm shift in the fight against Ebola by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO said it was cautiously optimistic about progress of the response with Mbandaka’s location directly upstream the Congo River of Kinshasa, a city of more than 10 million people, a concern.