Ebola vaccinations could start Wednesday in Congo outbreak

Traffic in the city of Mbandaka in northwest Congo in May 2018 during a previos Ebola outbreak

Congo announced the latest outbreak on august 1 with four confirmed cases, a week after declaring the end to a previous outbreak in the northwest with 33 deaths.

Genetic analysis has confirmed the virus strain in this latest outbreak is the Zaire strain.

Congo's health ministry has said the new vaccination campaign will target health care providers, contacts of confirmed Ebola cases and their contacts, the same strategy that was used to contain the previous outbreak in Equateur province in which more than 3,300 people were vaccinated.

The World Health Organisation has said it hopes to know as early as Tuesday whether the Ebola strain in this new outbreak is the one for which the vaccine can be used.

Tarik Jasarevic from the World Health Organization explains why it is so hard to deal with the latest outbreak.

More than 3,000 doses remain in stock in the capital Kinshasa, allowing authorities to deploy them quickly to affected areas.

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He confirms that the "cold chain" for vaccinations has arrived in Beni, the main city in the region, and vaccinations should be ready by the end of this week. "At this point, there is no indication that these two epidemics, which are more than 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) apart, are connected", Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga said in a statement.

Health officials have warned that containing the outbreak in North Kivu province is complicated by the presence of multiple armed groups vying for mineral-rich land in the northeastern region that borders Uganda and Rwanda.

"In total, 43 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the (Beni) region, including 16 confirmed and 27 probable, and 46 suspected cases are under investigation", the ministry said Tuesday.

Health experts have identified at least 966 contacts who are now under surveillance.

In the past, dozens of people were killed by the disease in the central African country.

Ebola, first identified in the country in 1976, jumps to humans from animals including bats and monkeys.

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