Since Ebola Virus Update: Promising Vaccine Is on the Horizon was posted back in December 2016, there’s been a resurgence of the disease in the Republic of the Congo. While much work has been done by members of international health communities to combat the deadly Ebola virus, and progress has been made in understanding the infection and preparing for new outbreaks, it has not been eradicated.
On May 13, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a news release on an outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that included the following information:
- May 9, 2017 – WHO was informed of a cluster of undiagnosed illness and deaths including haemorrhagic symptoms in Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), bordering Central African Republic. Since April 22nd, nine cases including three deaths have been reported. Six cases are currently hospitalized.
- May 10, 2017 – a multidisciplinary team led by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and supported by WHO and partners was deployed to the field and reached the affected area on May 12 or 13, 2017 to conduct an in depth field investigation.
- May 11, 2017 – MoH of DRC informed WHO that of the five samples collected from suspected cases, one tested positive by RT-PCR for Ebola virus subtype Zaire at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa. Additional specimens are currently being tested and results, including sequencing, are being analyzed to describe the outbreak.
At the time of the news release, WHO’s risk assessment of the outbreak was that it occurred in a remote and hard to reach area and appeared to be geographically relatively limited. However, investigations are ongoing to assess the full extent of the outbreak and therefore high vigilance still needs to be maintained
While the above news may seem dire, there is some good news to report today on this latest Ebola virus outbreak. Within the past 24 hours, Reuters and Duetsche Welle news media report that DRC’s health ministry has approved the use of a new Ebola vaccine to counter an outbreak in the northeastern part of that country that killed four people. The vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV and developed by Merck, is not yet licensed but shown to be highly protective against Ebola in clinical trials published last December.
While there is no licensed vaccine to fight the Ebola virus, a representative of WHO said the above Ebola vaccine had performed well in a clinical trial in Guinea. The 5,837 subjects who used the experimental vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, were not infected with the virus 10 days after vaccination, as compared with 23 cases of Ebola in the 6,004 subjects who were not vaccinated. [Ref 2]
As of Friday, Congo had registered 52 total suspected cases, including two that have been confirmed, WHO spokesman in Congo, Eugene Kabambi, said by telephone, adding that the situation appeared to be under control.
More details of the vaccination campaign will be announced after a meeting of the health ministry and its partners.
- Congo approves use of Ebola vaccination to fight outbreak, by Aaron Ross for Reuters Health News, May 29, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-ebola-congo-idUSKBN18P0WN
- Democratic Republic of Congo approves experimental Ebola vaccine use, Duetsche Welle, http://www.dw.com/en/democratic-republic-of-congo-approves-experimental-ebola-vaccine-use/a-39030346