(21 May 2018) The Democratic Republic of Congo began an Ebola vaccination campaign on Monday in a northwest provincial capital, in a major effort to stem an outbreak that already has spread from rural towns into a city of more than 1 million people.
The vaccination drive started a day after the health ministry announced that a nurse had died from Ebola in Bikoro.
The rural northwestern town is where the outbreak announced in early May began.
The death toll now stands at 27.
The country’s health delegation, including the health minister and representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations, arrived in Mbandaka, the northwestern city of 1.2 million where Ebola cases have been identified, to launch the vaccination campaign.
Guillaume Ngoie Mwamba, Director of the WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), was the first Congolese to receive the vaccine in Mbandaka.
“When you are exposed, you will have to go through vaccination as well”, he said.
There are 49 hemorrhagic fever cases: 22 confirmed as Ebola, 21 probable and six suspected, according to Health Minister Oly Ilunga.
In a hopeful sign, two patients who were confirmed as positive for Ebola have recovered and are returning to their homes, where they will be monitored, Ilunga said.
The virus, however, remains longer in semen in many cases and therefore can be transmitted through sexual contact for some months after recovery.
Two dozen vaccinators, including Congolese and Guineans who administered the vaccine in their country during the 2014-2016 outbreak, are in Mbandaka to start injecting the 540 doses that have arrived, the health minister said.
It will take five days to vaccinate about 100 registered patients, including 73 health care staff, who have had contact with patients and their relatives in the Wangata and Bolenge health zones of Mbandaka, he said.
The vaccination campaign will then move to the other two affected areas, the Bikoro and Iboko health zones.
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