WHO's Congo Ebola plan assumes 100-300 cases over three months

An ambulance carries the remains of an Ebola victim towards a burial site in Mbandaka on May 22

More awareness is being urged among the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) amid the rising number of suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola in the northwestern part of the country. About 100 health workers have been vaccinated there as front-line workers face high risk from the virus, which is spread via contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.

'Medical preparedness and a swift global response to the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo are essential if we are to prevent a new Ebola epidemic, ' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga visited Bikoro and Iboko on Saturday to inspect the deployment of health workers who will be tracing people who have been in contact with Ebola cases and inoculating them with a new experimental vaccine.

Bikoro Hospital director Dr Serge Ngalebato said he and other health officials were vaccinated for protection when treating Ebola patients.

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Congo's vaccination campaign, which began in Mbandaka last week, is targeting more than 1,000 health workers and contacts of the sick in three health zones.

The outbreak was announced in May, and according to the World Health Organization, it has been under control, with no spreading over the borders.

The WHO estimates 1,000 people move each day through major points of entry connected to Bikoro health zone, the remote area of Equateur province where the outbreak was first declared.

The vaccination campaign is already under way in Mbandaka, where four Ebola cases have been confirmed. Complicating factors include its spread to a major city, the fact that health workers have been infected and the existence of three or four "separate epicenters" that make finding and monitoring contacts of infected people more hard.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, said Saturday in a meeting in Geneva that he's committed to stopping this outbreak at all cost. Until now, over 600 people that came into contact with the infected or suspected have been identified. Symptoms of Ebola include vomiting, fever, muscle pain, diarrhea, and external or internal bleeding.

"Our experience in managing outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever has demonstrated the need to intervene as early as possible", said Solenne Barbe, "so that we can reinforce protective measures and explain to people who have been in contact with infected persons the need to notify medical personnel". The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain.

World Health Organization also is accelerating efforts with nine neighboring countries to try to prevent the Ebola outbreak from spreading there, saying the regional risk is high.

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