Uganda vaccinates at-risk health workers as Ebola spreads in Congo

That number includes the 189 people killed.

The vaccination programme launches on Wednesday with support from the World Health Organization, targeting 2,000 frontline workers in districts close to DRC's North Kivu province, which is now experiencing an outbreak of the deadly virus.

This is the first time that a vaccination drive has begun before the actual outbreak.

Officials fear the epidemic will spread from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and are implementing the plan so healthcare workers don't catch the virus and spread it.

A World Health Organization assessment of the situation in DRC released on 22 October, warned of the potential for the virus to spread into Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi, as well as Uganda, and called on these countries to step up readiness efforts.

In DRC till date, this season, around 300 cases of Ebola have been suspected with 265 confirmed cases of the disease.

The World Health Organization, CDC and other worldwide health organizations say they are anxious about the current Ebola outbreak spreading to port cities like Butembo, which will only exacerbate infection transmission rates. They say unofficial border crossings also are a cause for concern.

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According to the World Health Organization, until November 1 there were 279 cases of Ebola infection in the DRC, 244 confirmed by laboratory tests, 179 people died as a result of the disease and 81 people were able to recover.

Healthcare responders may consider vaccinating broader populations in place of the current vaccination strategy, which focuses on vaccinating people who have been exposed to Ebola patients.

Despite vaccination efforts in eastern Congo, Ebola is still spreading in the region as a conflict between militant groups battling for control and government forces hamper access to some of the hardest-hit areas.

A total of 2100 doses of the "rVSV-Ebola" vaccine 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.

For Congolese health workers, combating the virus has proved a challenge in a densely populated region that is roamed by armed groups.

Ebola was first reported in Congo in 1976 and is named for the river where it was recognized. Uganda was affected before in 2000 and 2001 where the infection killed 261 and infected 574 individuals.

  • Ismael Montgomery