Ebola Crisis Worsens, Threatening Tanzania, But New Vaccine Appears Effective

The most recent and ongoing devastating outbreak of Ebola in central Africa raging since August 2018 has claimed over 2000 lives and resulted in 3000 confirmed infections, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

And perhaps most alarming are recent new reports of possible Ebola deaths in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the major international port there — a surprising development given the WHO did not even rank Tanzania as among the "most vulnerable" countries for an outbreak (those listed are Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda based on reported cases near busy border crossings). This after in early summer it spread from worst hit Congo to neighboring Uganda, resulting in multiple deaths, including a child

Via Anadolu Agency

The latest reports out of Tanzania have resulted in rare travel advisories issued by the US and UK governments urging citizens to "be aware" of ‘probable’ Ebola-related deaths in the East African country. "The move follows an unusual statement from the WHO last weekend, which rebuked the Tanzanian government amid suspicion that cases of the devastating hemorrhagic disease were being covered up…", The Telegraph reported earlier this week. 

Despite what looks like a spillover outbreak in Tanzania from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which is suffering what the WHO describes as the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, the United Nations is reporting a positive development, that 1000 people have survived believed due in large part to a new "highly effective vaccine".

The UN issued the following statement:

One thousand people have survived the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): a testament to the strong leadership of the Congolese health authorities combined with the tireless efforts of thousands of local health workers and partners, United Nations agencies said on Friday.

And despite what the WHO described as a "clear shift in the hot spots of the outbreak from high density, urban settings, such as Butembo, Katwa, and Beni, to more rural areas with a lower population density" — which could mean the outbreak's geographic reach is spreading, or alternately that it's actually slowing in denser areas — there are clear signs that intervention is working. 

By mid-July of this year the deadly Congo outbreak jumped to neighboring Uganda, and now appears to have hit Tanzania:

Via The Sun

The UN report continues:

However, new tools are helping to stop the deadly virus and save lives. Among them is a highly effective vaccine, which has a 97.5 per cent effective rate. So far, more than 225,000 people have been protected.

However, a solution is not so simple, given both government corruption in the region and international aid infighting is hampering containment efforts, and experimental vaccine supplies are extremely limited, to say nothing of endemic conflict in the region. 

Doctors Without Borders, for example, recently accused the WHO of unjustly rationing supplies of the newly-developed vaccine, claiming only a fraction of the vaccine intended for a daily number of up to 2,500 people was being used, which the WHO vigorously denied. Doctors Without Borders charged that the WHO has been “rationing Ebola vaccines and hampering efforts to make them quickly available to all who are at risk of infection.”

But the fact that there are now 1,000 survivors of the normally fast-killing virus is a huge positive sign that the crisis could soon abate.