Teams all set for crucial Ebola vaccination in DR Congo

A laboratory technician at work. Using hi tech protective gear and technology, life-threatening pathogens like the Ebola virus can be safely diagnosed and researched at centers like these. (Photo by Markus Heine/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The death toll from an outbreak of a fresh strain of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo has risen to 34 even as officials say they will begin vaccinations this week to help prevent new infections.

As of Monday, 6 August, 16 confirmed cases of Ebola and 27 probable cases had been counted – aside from the deaths.

A statement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the vaccinations in Beni and Mangina will be carried out once the Ebola strain is confirmed and specifically for those at risk of infection.

Refrigerators to store the vaccines at Beni are now operational, and a team of vaccination experts from Guinea are to be deployed to carry out the exercise. Ideally, the vaccines are meant to be kept in temperatures between -60 and -80 degrees.

More than 900 contacts have been traced and registered in affected zones, as health workers take steps to stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring regions and countries.

“Current response focus includes contact tracing, infection prevention and control, particularly as regards health facilities; isolation and care of patients (and) outreach to communities,” reads the WHO statement.

The Regional Emergency Director for Africa meanwhile has stressed the need for heightened surveillance and preparedness actions in neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan, particularly along the border with North Kivu.

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adnahom Ghebreysus and Deputy Director General Dr Pete Salama will travel to the DR Congo on Thursday.