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WHO confirms more Ebola cases in Congo

WHO confirms more Ebola cases in Congo
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The World Health Organisation on Monday confirmed that a second Ebola case in Congo.

“So far there are 19 suspect cases, including three deaths and two lab-confirmed cases,” a WHO spokesperson in Geneva said via e-mail.

The first case was confirmed on Friday in Bas-Uele province in the north-east.

The WHO has said the outbreak appears to be limited to that remote area, and that there is no need for travel restrictions for the time being.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a continent-wide mechanism to monitor disease outbreaks, said it had activated its emergency operational centre to monitor the situation in Congo.

The Central African country has suffered seven previous outbreaks of Ebola since the virus was discovered in the country in 1976.

The last outbreak, in 2014, left 49 people dead.

The haemorrhagic fever has been most detrimental in West Africa, where it claimed more than 11,000 lives in 2014 to 2015.

The WHO declared Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries that had been most effected by the epidemic, free of Ebola in 2016.

NAN reports that the GAVI global vaccine alliance said on Friday some 300,000 emergency doses of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak, after the WHO confirmed a fatal case in Congo.

The vaccine, known as “rVSV-ZEBOV”, was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in clinical trials published in December 2016.

NAN reports that the experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea, according to results published in The Lancet.

The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published in 2016

The vaccine was studied in a trial involving 11, 841 people in Guinea during 2015.

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Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination.

In comparison, there were 23 cases 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.

The trial was led by WHO, together with Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Medecins sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, in collaboration with other international partners.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author.

The vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, this year received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the United States Food and Drug Administration and PRIME status from the European Medicines Agency, enabling faster regulatory review of the vaccine once it is submitted.

Since Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, sporadic outbreaks have been reported in Africa.

The 2013–2016 West African Ebola outbreak, which resulted in more than 11 300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine.

The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.

The trial used an innovative design, a so-called “ring vaccination” approach, the same method used to eradicate small pox.

When a new Ebola case was diagnosed, the research team traced all people who may have been in contact with that case within the previous three weeks, such as people who lived in the same household, were visited by the patient, or were in close contact with the patient, their clothes or linen, as well as certain “contacts of contacts”.

A total of 117 clusters (or “rings”) were identified, each made up of an average of 80 people.

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