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Experimental Ebola Vaccine Administered to Hundreds in Guinea as Outbreak Spreads to Liberia

APR 08, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Recent Ebola-linked deaths in Guinea caused the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guinea office to implement a “ring vaccination” strategy in which it administered an experimental Ebola vaccine to 800 of 1000 suspected cases, including 182 suspected at high-risk. (A “ring vaccination” strategy is the administration of a vaccine to all individuals in any given region where there was a recent outbreak, to control the number of infected individuals. This technique was used in the 1970s to eradicate smallpox.)

In a Phase III vaccine trial conducted by Guinea’s Ministry of Health as well as WHO and other partner agencies in July 2015, the VSV-EBOV vaccine, developed by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, was found to be 100% effective against the Ebola virus. After 7 total deaths and 8 confirmed Ebola infections, local health authorities in Nzérékoré, Guinea reactivated the emergency coordination mechanism which was in place at the height of the country’s Ebola epidemic. The most recently infected Guinean, an 11-year-old girl, is said to have reached a stable condition after treatment in a Nzérékoré Ebola care facility. This is Guinea’s first flare-up since Guinea was declared Ebola-free in late December 2015.
 
According to the United Nations (UN) News Centre, on April 1, 2016, Liberia’s Ministry of Health, along with WHO, confirmed that the death of a 30-year-old woman was due to the Ebola virus in the country’s third flare-up since May 2015 when the Ebola outbreak was originally declared over.
 
Further investigation into the case in Liberia proved that the woman was in fact a Guinea native. Following her husband’s undiagnosed death in Guinea in March 2016, the woman travelled to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, to stay with relatives. The woman died en route to a Monrovian hospital. The woman’s son was admitted to an Ebola care facility in Monrovia after he tested positive for the virus. The rest of the family members (two children and the deceased’s sister) are being closely monitored for symptoms of Ebola.

This flare-up prompted local health officials to also reactivate the country’s emergency response mechanisms. Liberian health authorities are working to trace, isolate, and monitor all contacts of the individuals who are confirmed to be infected with the Ebola virus. As of today, 84 contacts have been identified and placed under medical observation. Infection prevention and disease control measures as well as community outreach programs have been implemented.
 
WHO has decided to administer the Ebola vaccine in the Liberian city of Monrovia in order to prevent another outbreak. WHO has stated that, although the risk of another historical outbreak is unlikely, it does expect more cases to pop up, due to the virus’s persistence in some survivors. Thus, WHO health officials continue to stay on-site in the infected areas in both Guinea and Liberia.
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