Ebola vaccinations begin in DRC's northwest town of Bikoro

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The Congo's Minister of Health, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, flew in a helicopter to Bikoro and Iboko to monitor the roll-out of health care personnel who has the mission to identify people who have come into contact with Ebola and to vaccinate them with the new pilot vaccine that has been deployed in the region during the past week.

Three areas in the Equateur province Iboko, Bikoro, and the provincial capitol Mdbandaka, which has 1.2 million people in a major transportation hub along the Congo River; has health workers identifying people that were in contact with the confirmed Ebola deaths.

The WHO's plan for Congo assumes each rural Ebola case would have 10 potentially infected contacts and each urban case would have 30.

Global development secretary Penny Mordaunt said last week the fresh support would help the central African country strengthen its health systems to treat and manage the growing number of Ebola cases.

"We who are on the front lines of caring for the sick". 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.

"We have lost many of our family members so far in Bikoro and other villages", a resident of Mbandaka, Michel Bokungu, told Xinhua. The vaccination campaign in the two rural areas is set to begin Monday.

Amid worries of the spread of Ebola, several schools in the Iboko health zone, about 112 miles southeast of Mbandaka, have been closed, according to reports by Radio Okapi, a station backed by the United Nations.

"The risks of propagation are very low because it is a remote area, it is about 200km from Mbandaka, the capital of the province of Equateur ... so it is unlikely that a patient can leave this area and go to Mbandaka or Kinshasa", the capital, said the director of the National Institute of Biological and Bacterial Research, Dr. Jean Jacques Muyembe.

Since the first outbreak was recorded early this month, there have been growing fears with more than twice as many Ebola outbreaks in the DRC as any other country since the virus was discovered in 1976.

Ebola is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola. It is spread via with bodily fluids of those infected. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the strain. VOA.

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