Ebola vaccinations will begin on Monday in the two rural areas of Democratic Republic of Congo where the latest outbreak was declared this month, the health ministry said, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 35, including 10 deaths.
A vaccination campaign is already under way in Mbandaka, the city of 1.2 million on the Congo River where four Ebola cases have been confirmed.
About 100 health workers have been vaccinated there as front-line workers face high risk from the virus, which is spread via contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.
The vaccination campaign will begin in the rural areas of Bikoro and Iboko in the country’s northwest, health ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga told The Associated Press.
“The health minister can be found at this moment in Bikoro for assessing the preparations for the vaccination campaign,” Ilunga said.
Of the 10 confirmed deaths, five have taken place in Bikoro, two in Iboko and three in the Wangata area of Mbandaka.
In addition to the confirmed cases there are also 13 probable cases and six suspected ones, the health ministry said.
The World Health Organisation emergencies chief has said the next few weeks are crucial in determining whether the outbreak can be brought under control.
Complicating factors include its spread to a major city, the fact that health workers have been infected and the existence of three or four “separate epicentres” that make finding and monitoring contacts of infected people more difficult.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting in Geneva on Saturday that “I am personally committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to stop this outbreak as soon as possible”.
There is no specific treatment for Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.
The virus can be fatal in up to 90% of cases, depending on the strain.