The Democratic Republic of Congo has begun to administer an experimental vaccine to halt the spread of the Ebola virus in Mbandaka, a major transport hub that is home to more than one million people and connected by river to several other large cities.
This is DRC’s ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976. The others were centred in rural areas and contained before they reached an urban environment like Mbandaka. The current outbreak is the fourth in Equateur Province – following others in 1976, 1977, and 2014.
On 21 May, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted: “It’s concerning that we now have cases of #Ebola in an urban centre in #DRC, but we are much better placed to deal with this outbreak than we were in 2014. I’m pleased to say that vaccination is starting as we speak.”
DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga said last week that monitoring travellers for signs of the illness would be stepped up along all air, sea, and overland routes in and out of Mbandaka. In addition, wider Equateur Province (including villages up and downstream from Mbandaka on the Congo River) was to be put under close watch by healthcare workers and officials
The Ministry of Health launched a ring vaccination campaign – the first time, outside of a clinical trial, that a vaccine has been deployed to stem an Ebola outbreak – on 21 May. It has also sent rapid response teams to Equateur Province to investigate reports of cases and deaths.