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  • A woman and child wait to receive the Ebola vaccination in Goma, DRC.

    A woman and child wait to receive the Ebola vaccination in Goma, DRC. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 October 2019

"We have put the virus in the corner," Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme said.

"Significant progress" has been made in efforts to restrain the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the World Health Organization (WHO), who announced Thursday the pandemic is now concentrated in smaller and rural parts of the Central African country. 

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"We have put the virus in the corner," Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said.

"I believe we have really squeezed the virus into a much smaller geographical area." Currently, 27 "health zones" remain affected by the pandemic, down from the 207 at the peak of the outbreak.

However, although the level of transmission is much lower, the danger is not over, the official added.

"The fact that it is a smaller space is positive, but the disease has moved into more rural and more insecure areas," he warned.

In addition, "containing a virus is a different prospect than to eliminate that virus from human populations," Ryan said. "We have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographical area," he clarified. "Now we have to kill the virus."

Much of the polemic over the response to the crisis has been focused on the treatment and use of vaccines.

Ebola’s crisis in DRC grew rapidly since it resurfaced 13 months ago, in August 2018, causing the death of more than 2,000 people. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak just behind the one that hit West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

Active armed groups and communities’ profound distrust in the medical health teams have hindered the efforts to stop the epidemic for months. However, more than 236,000 people living in Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccine produced by United States-based pharmaceutical giant, Merck.

Meanwhile, the DRC is preparing to introduce a second experimental Ebola vaccine, produced by another US-based company, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), to keep those living outside the transmission zones, safe.

Ryan said WHO and its teammates were currently talking to communities to explain the differences between both vaccines.

"The two vaccines are complementary. They are designed to do different things in different populations," he said.

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