The head of the World Health Organisation has said he and DR Congo’s health minister have agreed that Ebola vaccines will be shipped “as quickly as possible” as the number of suspected cases in the latest outbreak grows.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus announced the development in a Twitter post on Friday.
Yesterday I spoke by phone with the Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo @OlyIlunga to discuss the #Ebola response in #DRC. We agreed to ship vaccines as quickly as possible so they can be used to save lives.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 11, 2018
Two cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the latest outbreak in a remote north-western part of Congo.
The country’s health minister on Thursday announced the first death since the outbreak was declared early this week, though the heamorrhagic fever blamed for the death has not been confirmed as Ebola. Nine other suspected cases were announced on Thursday.
There is no specific treatment for Ebola. A new experimental vaccine has been shown to be highly effective, though quantities are currently limited.
UK aid is working with @WHO and the government of DRC after confirmation of two cases of Ebola, stockpiling vaccines and putting health experts on standby. Today @DFID_UK and @WellcomeTrust made funding available to support a rapid response to the disease https://t.co/7OM8Oeb8qk— DFID (@DFID_UK) May 10, 2018
WHO emergencies chief Dr Peter Salama told reporters at a briefing: “The problem here is that we already have three separate locations that are reporting cases that cover as much as 60km (37 miles) and maybe more.
“We have three healthcare workers infected and one who has been reported as of yesterday as having died. And we know that healthcare workers can really be an amplification factor for these kinds of outbreaks.
“And we know the number of suspected probable and confirmed cases is significant. So we are very concerned.”
While the risk of the latest outbreak spreading into other countries is low, nine nearby countries have been put on high alert, Dr Salama said.
It is “absolutely a dire scene in terms of infrastructure” as medical teams try to contain the outbreak in a region with poor water and sanitation, few paved roads and little electricity, he said.