Uganda begins Ebola vaccination for high-risk health workers

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Uganda begins Ebola vaccination for high-risk health workers

Uganda will begin vaccinating frontline health workers against Ebola next week as the threat increases of the deadly virus spreading from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the health minister said Friday.

186 total deaths have been reported.

A total of 2,100 doses of Merck's "rVSV-Ebola" vaccine candidate will be administered to the health workers to protect them against the type of Ebola virus strain that is now circulating in some parts of DRC.

Contact tracing is still of concern due to insecurity and persistent community resistance.

The current Ebola outbreak is unfolding in an active war zone with several armed groups attacking health officials, government aids and civilians.

The outbreak began shortly after the government declared an end to another outbreak in the west of the country in June and lauded those involved for managing to swiftly contain the spread of the disease.

Although the Ebola vaccine is not commercially licensed, it is being used under "expanded access" or what is also known as "compassionate use" in the ongoing Ebola outbreak DRC.

Besides militia attacks that have hindered health workers, the region's high population density and movements across the borders to Uganda and Rwanda pose additional risks that the highly lethal fever disease could spread in the region.

Redfield, officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts say one of the biggest worries is the spread within Congo to places like Butembo, a major trading port and urban area, where the risk of widespread transmission escalates dramatically.

In a new report, Morrison said there is an urgent need for "high-level political attention focused on generating an updated game plan" to improve security, train and deploy community health workers and win community trust.

The move to vaccinate health operatives even before detecting a single case, came as a precaution after a number of health workers died from the virus while treating Ebola patients in a previous outbreak.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and Congo, and gets its name from a river in the latter nation. The worst outbreak was in Uganda in 2000 and 2001, when 574 people were infected and 261 died.

The infection is capable of killing 20 to 70 percent of those who are infected depending on the strain of virus. There are some experimental antibody based therapies that are being tried in treating the disease.

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