As Ebola Death Toll Rises in Congo, Mass Vaccinations Begin

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro

A new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has driven the death toll to 36.

Just two weeks after one Ebola virus outbreak was concluded, today sees the beginning of a mass vaccination campaign in the DRC aimed at stopping another one from claiming any more lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already announced 34 deaths, but the DRC’s Ministry of Public Health has added two more to the tally.

Officials are investigating 89 more cases in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, with 16 confirmed for EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) so far. The Ebola virus kills about 50 percent of those it infects, and there is no treatment proven to stop it once it has begun to winnow a population. Because of that, it is crucial for authorities to stop the outbreaks before they spread too far.

According to the WHO, this outbreak was caused by the improper burial of a 65-year-old victim. Seven members of her family have already died from the virus. They had first displayed symptoms not long after she was laid to rest.

Unfortunately, helping the victims is difficult due to the volatile nature of DRC’s climate. More than 100 armed groups make the vaccination campaign a potentially deadly undertaking. “This is an active conflict zone. The major barrier will be safely accessing the affected population,” said a WHO spokesperson.

The experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV is health officials’ best chance yet at stopping the deadly pathogen before it can rack up something like the 11,000-person death toll of the 2014 outbreak that infected over 29,000.

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