The Irish Times view on Ebola: a worrying outbreak

Some 26 people have died since the virus was detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month

A nurse working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows a bottle containing Ebola vaccine in Mbandaka on Monday. The death toll in an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen to 26. Photograph: Junior Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

A nurse working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows a bottle containing Ebola vaccine in Mbandaka on Monday. The death toll in an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen to 26. Photograph: Junior Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

 

The deadly haemorrhagic virus Ebola has once again taken hold in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 45 cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since an outbreak began earlier this month, and 26 people have died.

Ebola infects humans through close contact with the blood and other bodily fluids of infected animals. More than 11,300 people died in an outbreak affecting a number of west African states in 2014-16. A vaccine has been developed since, leading the World Health Organisation (WHO) to express optimism that the latest outbreak can be contained. But Ebola has already spread from rural areas to the northwestern city of Mbandaka. Once it penetrates urban areas, where people and animals share cramped living quarters, the opportunity for disease transmission rises significantly.

Implementing the ring vaccination is a complex operation: vaccines need to be stored at a temperature of minus 60 to minus 80 degrees centigrade

The WHO was rightly criticised for a ponderous response to the 2014 outbreak. An international panel of 20 experts said the most egregious failure was the WHO’s delay in sounding the alarm early in the Ebola outbreak. But the DRC government, with the support of the WHO and others, has a new Ebola vaccine with which to tackle the latest outbreak. More than 7,500 doses have been deployed to the northwestern Equator province. A ring vaccination exercise, whereby the contacts of confirmed cases and the contacts of contacts are offered vaccination, began on Monday. Frontline healthcare workers and others with potential exposure to Ebola will also receive the vaccine.

However, implementing the ring vaccination is a complex operation: vaccines need to be stored at a temperature of minus 60 to minus 80 degrees centigrade, so transporting and storing them is a challenge. The as yet unlicensed vaccine was shown to be highly protective against Ebola in a major trial in 2015 in Guinea. Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded nine days or more after vaccination. Trials indicate the new vaccine, which does not contain live Ebola virus, has a good safety profile. But significant logistical challenges remain.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.