Ebola vaccinations in eastern Congo due to begin on Wednesday

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An outbreak of the Ebola virus declared this week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is believed to have killed 33 people, the health ministry said.

The acting director of Health Services Dr Henry Mwebesa on Monday issued a notice directing all district health officers in the country to be vigilant. "Twelve teams of vaccinators will be deployed in the different affected zones".

He said so far, 26 case with haemorrhagic fever signs, including twenty deaths in the area of North Kivu have been reported.

The outbreak declared last week in North Kivu province in the northeast near Uganda and Rwanda is a new outbreak and not connected to the one in DR Congo's northwest that was declared over on July 24, WHO's emergency preparedness chief Peter Salama said on Twitter.

Health experts in the city closest to the new outbreak, Beni, have been setting up "cold chains" to keep the vaccines at the optimal temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius, a challenge in a region with hot temperatures and unreliable power supplies. Three healthcare workers were also infected, one of them among the dead.

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More than 3,000 doses remain in stock in the capital Kinshasa, allowing authorities to quickly deploy it to the affected areas near the Ugandan border.

The newest outbreak, confirmed by the World Health Organization on Sunday, is located in the Congo's northeastern North Kivu Province and neighboring Ituri Province.

About 900 contacts of confirmed or suspect cases have been identified for monitoring, World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

But workers were still able to travel hundreds of miles by motorbike to trace people who had come into contact with the virus, a vital part of its containment.

The health ministry on August 1 said the country was facing its tenth outbreak of Ebola since 1976.

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