DRC’s Ebola epidemic contained in a ‘smaller geographical area’

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Efforts to halt an Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo have made “significant progress”, with the virus now contained to a far smaller and mainly rural area, News24 reports the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced. “We have put the virus in the corner,” Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told reporters in Geneva. “I believe we have really squeezed the virus into a much smaller geographical area,” he said. Ebola is now essentially only transmitting within an area of eastern DRC between Mambasa, Komanda, Mandima and Beni, he said.

The report says the DRC’s latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016. At the height of the latest outbreak, 207 “health zones” were affected by Ebola, a figure that now stands at only 27, Ryan said.

But Ryan stressed that despite a “much lower level of transmission”, the danger was not over. “The fact that it is a smaller space is positive, but … the disease has moved into more rural and more insecure areas,” he warned. Ebola fighters have been hindered by militia attacks in eastern DRC, as well as by resistance in communities to some of the methods used to rein in the virus.

More than 236,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received an as-yet unlicensed vaccination produced by the pharma giant Merck. And DRC is preparing to begin introducing a second experimental Ebola vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson, to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

Ryan said WHO and its partners were talking to communities to explain the differences between the vaccines and say who was entitled to which vaccine and why. “The two vaccines are complementary. They are designed to do different things in different populations,” he said.

News24 report

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