Ebola Outbreak Exceeds 2,000 Cases in Just 10 Months

Ebola Zaire vaccine candidates include Merck’s v920 rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP and Janssen Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN
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Africa (Vax Before Travel)

After the Ebola outbreak was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in August 2018, it took 224 days before 1,000 cases were confirmed on March 24, 2019. 

Since March 24th it has taken only 71 days to reach 2,000 Ebola cases, which is more than triple the previous daily case rate, says the World Health Organization (WHO). 

With more than 13 million people in need of aid, the DRC Ebola outbreak is one of the world’s most complex, fatal, and long-standing humanitarian crises.   

As of May 28th, the overall case fatality rate (CFR) of EVD (Ebola virus disease) cases in children under the age of 5 stands at 77 percent. This CFR was notably higher than that of EVD cases over 5-years of age, which is reported to be 57 percent. 

In total, over 1,300 people have died during this EVD outbreak in the DRC. 

But there is some good news to report. 

  • Slowing of the daily case rate: The WHO says the decline in the number of confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases has been reported during the May 22 to 28, 2019 week. During this week, a total of 73 new confirmed cases were reported compared to the previous where 127 new confirmed cases were reported. The WHO says this trend should be interpreted with caution given the complex operating environment and fragility of the security situation. 
  • Efficacious Ebola vaccine:  An experimental vaccine developed by Merck & Co is proving to be 97.5 percent effective at preventing the EVDE. The World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts had permitted the use of the V920 (rVSVΔG-ZEBOV-GP) vaccine candidate, which has been deployed to over 111,000 individuals in the DRC since August 2018. Recently, on May 7, 2019, an additional experimental Ebola vaccine Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN developed by Janssen Divison of Johnson & Johnson was approved for use in the DRC. 

Additionally, during February 2019, an ethics committee of the WHO recommended the use of the v920 vaccine for pregnant and lactating women, and young children, in the DRC.

The risk for contracting the Ebola Zaire virus is low for most travelers to DRC, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

However, the CDC reissued its Level 2 Travel Alert for the DRC on May 17, 2019.  

If you choose to be vaccinated against Ebola, get the v920 vaccine before travel, if possible, says the CDC.

The v920 vaccine is under study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a clinical trial, entitled ‘PREPARE,’ with study sites located at the NIH in Bethesda, MD, and Emory University in Atlanta, GA. 

The CDC says upon returning to the USA, you should notify your healthcare facility’s infection control or occupational health professional of your recent travel and self-monitoring activities. 

Furthermore, the CDC says any person with possible exposure or Ebola-like symptoms will not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of a coordinated medical evacuation. And, every international traveler leaving the outbreak area may be subject to travel restrictions or monitoring by ministries of health in other countries and should check in advance for any requirements. 

Ebola virus disease is a rare and deadly disease. It is spread by contact with blood or body fluids of a person infected with the Ebola virus. 

Ebola symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Skin rash, red eyes, and internal and external bleeding may be seen in some patients, says the CDC. 

International travelers can schedule pre-departure vaccine and medication counseling sessions at Vax-Before-Travel.