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Congo Ebola death toll to hit 1,000, new vaccine planned

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | May 3, 2019
Congo’s Ebola epidemic is expected to continue spreading though the country’s east, where it has killed 1,000 since August and sparked mistrust and frequent attacks on medical centers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Michael Ryan
Africa   Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme
The WHO plans to expand vaccination in that part of Democratic Republic of Congo in coming weeks. It is already using another experimental vaccine made by Merck.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said vaccine supplies were plentiful, but accessing target communities to administer them and treat patients was being hampered by hostility toward medical staff.

Security incidents continued to plague efforts to halt the outbreak, with 119 documented attacks since January, he said.

As a result, “we are anticipating a scenario of continued intense transmission,” Ryan told a news briefing.

“We haven’t exceeded the 1,000 (deaths) as of this morning but we will likely exceed that today when we see the numbers later this evening... You want to use every tool in the box.”

The Merck vaccine will still be used in ‘ring vaccination’ of people exposed to the virus and their contacts, he said. But WHO was also studying use of a single dose to stretch supplies, an option experts would review on Monday.

More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated so far, and the treatment has been highly effective, WHO says.