WHO eyes vaccine trial for Ebola-hit DRC

WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Federal Government on Wednesday said it has constituted a 10-man committee of health workers to stay on standby to tackle possibke outbreak of Ebola.

And on May 12, World Health Organization said that the GAVI global vaccine alliance has some 300,000 emergency doses of an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck and could be available in case of a large-scale outbreak.

"We can not underestimate the logistical and practical challenges associated with this response at a very remote part of the country", Salama said on the call.

Their first priority is the "basic detective work" of tracing more than 400 people who are contacts of the known cases, Salama said, followed by case management and isolation.

"As of now we do not know the full extent of the outbreak". He offered no new details about the index case, a 39-year-old man who died en route to a hospital, but noted that a person caring for the man in addition to the motorcycle driver transporting the man have both perished from the disease. Thirty-two cases appeared between 2008-2009, causing an estimated 15 deaths in Kasai. Therefore, Port Health Authorities have been advised to intensify existing screening procedures at all ports of entry with first responder teams being put on alert.

An Ebola treatment centre has also been set up at the Likati hospital and teams are working on deploying a mobile laboratory to help speed up diagnoses, he said.

Health workers would also be given the vaccine.

The first six months of the response to the outbreak are expected to cost the World Health Organization and aid groups $10 million, Salama said at the briefing. The most recent came during the separate epidemic in West Africa in 2014.

But the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, told STAT that preparations to have the experimental vaccine ready for use are being made on a parallel track with investigations in DRC into the scale of the outbreak.

"Transport is extremely hard in the area, and helicopter flights may be the only way to get there", she said by e-mail.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States is also sending a renowned Ebola expert, Dr. Pierre Rollin, to Congo, along with epidemiologists, a spokeswoman said.

During that epidemic, a vaccine made by Merck was successfully tested in hard-hit Guinea. "As you can imagine, in an area without telecommunications, without road access [and] without live-scale electrification, this is going to be an enormous challenge", said Salama. "They have been the people who are leading surveillance in the country", Moeti said.

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