Congo's Ebola Death Toll Rises to 27 — Including a Nurse
A nurse who was treating patients in the deadly Ebola outbreak currently spreading in the Democratic Republic of Congo has died of the disease, the nation's health ministry announced Monday.
The death happened in Congo's rural Bikoro region, where the outbreak began, and is among the 27 deaths caused by the virus. The death toll, along with the number of suspected cases, has steadily been rising since the first cases of the new outbreak were confirmed on May 9. There are now 22 confirmed cases of Ebola, with 21 more probable cases of the hemorrhagic fever and six suspected.
Last week, the outbreak spread to Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people, raising alarms that the virus could spread much faster in the close quarters of a more urban environment.
Congo's Health Minister, Oly Ilunga, said the country would start its vaccinations Monday. Along with the World Health Organization, Congo is conducting a "ring vaccination" strategy in which people who may have had contact with an Ebola victim — and contacts of those contacts — are all preemptively given a dose of the vaccine. Healthcare workers on the front lines of the outbreak will also get a preventive dosage.
Officials predict it will take about five days to vaccinate the 100 contacts — 73 of which are healthcare staff — who have interacted with confirmed Ebola patients. The antidote is still a test vaccine, but it previously helped quell the deadly outbreak of the disease that ripped through West Africa in 2014, claiming more than 11,300 lives.
In a glimmer of good news, two patients who were diagnosed with the hemorrhagic fever have since recovered from the virus and have been sent home.