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South Sudan vaccinates health workers against Ebola amid Congo transmission fears

Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the DRC, August 18, 2018. (Photo Reuters)
January 28, 2019 (YAMBIO) - South Sudan Ministry of Health has started to vaccinate its health workers against Ebola on Monday, amid fears that the viral haemorrhagic fever could spread from Democratic Republic of Congo which is battling an outbreak.

The vaccination campaign is conducted with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners, says a statement extended to Sudan Tribune by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Vaccination began in Yambio, Gbudue State, but health workers in Tombura, Yei and Nimule as well as the capital city, Juba, will also be offered the vaccine," read he statement bore to add that these are high-risk areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is now experiencing its tenth outbreak of Ebola.

17 cases of Ebola were reported in South Sudan in May 2004. At the time, the deadly virus killed seven people in Yambio, in Western Equatoria region.

The disease is highly infectious and easily transmitted through contact with the blood and other body fluids of victims, even when they are dead.

The outbreak began in DRC on 1 August 2018. At least 459 people died. However, neighbouring countries have not reported any cases of Ebola until now.

As part of these preparedness activities which are crucial to face any outbreak, South Sudan received 2 160 doses of the Ebola vaccine from Merck, the vaccine developer. The vaccine offers protection against the Zaire strain of the virus, which is the one affecting DRC at present, said the statement.

“It is absolutely vital that we are prepared for any potential case of Ebola spreading beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Due to the regular movement of population between the Congo and South Sudan via the Western Equatoria, South Sudanese health authorities have established 17 screening point also the border between the two countries to detect any travellers infected with the Ebola virus.

Nearly 1 million people have been screened to date.

The Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, which is a public-private partnership, in addition to the Ebola vaccine also has provided US$2 million to support the WHO’s vaccination efforts in countries neighbouring the DRC, including South Sudan.

In November 2018, Uganda implemented a similar vaccination campaign

(ST)