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Congo Ebola vaccine teams set up fridges, 43 cases suspected

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By Reuters

GOMA, Congo (Reuters) – Health workers in Congo were setting up refrigerators on Monday to keep cool an Ebola vaccine needed to tackle an outbreak suspected to have infected 43 people, the health ministry said.

Giving the latest figures on the epidemic, which was declared just days after an outbreak in northwestern Congo 2,500 miles away was declared over, the ministry said of the 43 suspected cases, 16 were now confirmed. There were three new cases confirmed and four new deaths, as of Monday, it said.

It did not give a total death toll, but previous ministry reports have put deaths at more than 30.

“The cold chain for the vaccinations arrived in Beni on this sixth of August,” the statement said. “Twelve teams of vaccinators will be deployed in the different affected zones.”

The experimental vaccine, which is manufactured by Merck, proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against the outbreak in the northwest.

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 vaccine normally needs to be kept at 80 degrees Celsius below freezing (minus 112 Fahrenheit), although it can be stored for a couple of weeks at just above freezing.

(Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Diane Craft)