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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Ebola: WHO seeks $26m for DRC response, Ghana denies outbreak reports

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners will need $26 million for the Ebola Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) over the next three months.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

This is even as the Ghana Health Service (GHS) refuted reports of an outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country.

WHO said on Monday, May 21, 2018 that funding had been received from Italy, UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance.

The others are the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Wellcome Trust and UK Department for International Development.

The Ghana denial followed social media reports that claimed an Ebola outbreak in the country and that the health authority was trying to suppress the information.

“We want to state emphatically that the report is false and misleading and that there is no such incidence of Ebola in Ghana,” the GHS said in a statement signed by its Director-General, Anthony Nsiah-Asare.

The statement said Ebola was a highly infectious condition and that when there was an outbreak in a community there was no way the National Health System could keep it secret from the public.

It added that the health system was part of the global community and mandated by international health regulation to report all such conditions if they occurred.

It assured the general public that since the reported outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the surveillance system has been intensified, including at the points of entries, to detect any case should it occur.

In the DRC, the WHO said it had also released $2 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies, to scale up the Ebola response.

The Government of DRC, with the support of WHO partners, is preparing to vaccinate high risk populations against Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in affected health zones.

The organisation said health workers operating in affected areas were being vaccinated on Monday and community outreach had started to prepare for the ring vaccination.

More than 7,500 doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine have been deployed to DRC to conduct vaccination in the northwestern Equator Province where 46 suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola cases and 26 deaths have been reported – as of Friday.

Most of the cases the oraganisatioj said were in Bikoro, a remote rural town, while four confirmed cases are in Mbandaka, the provincial capital with a population of over one million people.

The vaccines were donated by Merck, while Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is contributing one million dollars towards operational costs, while the Wellcome Trust and DFID had also pledged funds to support research activities.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Vaccination will be key to controlling this outbreak. We are grateful for the support of our partners in making this possible”.

The Ministry of Health with WHO, Medecins Sans Frontieres , UN Children’s Fund and other key partners are implementing a ring vaccination with the yet to be licensed rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine, whereby the contacts of confirmed cases and the contacts of contacts are offered vaccination.

Frontline healthcare workers and other persons with potential exposure to EVD – including but not limited to laboratory workers, surveillance teams and people responsible for safe and dignified burials – will also receive the vaccine.

Dr Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said there was the need to act fast to stop Ebola from spreading.

“We need to act fast to stop the spread of Ebola by protecting people at risk of being infected with the Ebola virus, identifying and ending all transmission chains and ensuring that all patients have rapid access to safe, high-quality care,” Salama said.

A ring vaccination strategy relies on tracing all the contacts and contacts of contacts of a recently confirmed case as soon as possible.

WHO said teams on the ground had stepped up the active search and follow up of all contacts, while more than 600 contacts have been identified to date.

“Implementing the Ebola ring vaccination is a complex procedure,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“The vaccines need to be stored at a temperature of minus 60 to minus 80 degrees centigrade and so transporting them to and storing them in affected areas is a major challenge,” Moeti said.

WHO had sent special vaccine carriers, which can keep their contents in sub-zero temperatures for up to a week and has set up freezers to store the vaccines in Mbandaka and Bikoro.

The UN health agency is deploying both Congolese and Guinean experts to build the capacities of local health workers.

The Ministry of Health, WHO, UNICEF and partners are engaging communities to inform people about Ebola, including the vaccine.

The vaccine was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in a major trial in 2015 in Guinea, and among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded nine days or more after vaccination.

While the vaccine is awaiting review by relevant regulatory authorities, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation has recommended the use of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine under an expanded access/compassionate use protocol during Ebola outbreaks linked to the Zaire strain such as the one ongoing in the DRC.

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