The doses will be stored at a facility in Kinshasa until the ministry and the World Health Organization are sure the vaccine can be transported to Mbandaka and Bikoro - and kept there - at a sufficiently low temperature, Ilunga said.
So far, the 23 deaths believed to have been caused by Democratic Republic of Congo's latest Ebola outbreak had been detected in more isolated areas, giving authorities a better chance of ring-fencing the virus. "Since the announcement of the alert in Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases".
"The Senate is anxious that unless we prepare our hospitals, properly equipped with the Ebola vaccine where necessary, this is an epidemic we might be unable to take up and will only cause untold hardship".
It also urged the Minister of Health to ensure alertness to combat disease in whatever cases may rise and get the ebola vaccine ready for an emergency while advising Nigerians who travel to other African countries to ensure utmost level of care to avoid getting infected. While none has been connected to the one in West Africa, the experimental vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of Ebola found in Congo. Congo's government authorized the use of the vaccine last week.
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo since 1976.
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"It can't cure Ebola, but what it can do is stop the spread of the disease", she said.
"In 2014, you remember that the World Health Organization and other agencies were criticized for being "staggeringly slow" to respond", Patta said. As it stands, $1 billion of Congress' budget put aside to fight the 2015 Ebola outbreak is unlikely to be maintained after 2019 and President Donald Trump's most recent budget proposal has indicated funding reductions for foreign aid.
Also, officials in Guinea and Gambia both said they have heightened screening measures along their borders.
Patta reports that the epicenter of the disease is a small, remote town called Bikoro. The Bikoro health zone is about 150 kilometers - 93 miles - from Mbandaka and 45 kilometers from Ikoko Impenge, where suspected cases have been reported. With varying symptoms ranging from fever to diarrhoea, there were a total of 869 contacts and 20 laboratory confirmed cases were recorded.
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