The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic Of Congo has affected the lives of more than one million people. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared it a global health emergency, the agency announced Friday (May 18)—however, it certainly is an emergency in the Congo.
One death and fourteen cases of Ebola have been confirmed in the vast and impoverished country, with dozens of additional probable or suspected cases, The Associated Press reported. Those in the region face a “high” risk, but there is no threat of the disease spreading internationally or a need for containment, officials said.
The big question in the Congo is how WHO is planning to fight this virus, which is spread via contact with bodily fluids of those who are infected. Officials will begin testing an experimental vaccine Sunday (May 20) for the disease, which is transmitted from wild animals to humans, they told the AP.
The virus had previously been confined to remote and rural areas but has now spread to Mbandaka, which is home to nearly 1.2 million people, The Guardian reported. Reaching the city raised alarm, as the virus can potentially spread faster in urban areas. In response, 30 medical experts have been summoned to Mbandaka.
Officials are preparing to overcome challenges in distributing the vaccine. For one, the vaccine needs to stay cold—something difficult to do in an area with high humidity, poor infrastructure and limited electricity. Also, officials will face a hardship in reaching certain areas due to a lack of roads in the region.
People living in the Congo’s capital have faced eight outbreaks since the 1970s.