"DRC Ebola News (12/20/19)." CSIS Commission on Strengthening America's Health Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 20, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2020.

Daily update for December 20th, 2019 on the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Photo Credit: Mike Stone/Getty Images

There were 2 new cases reported on December 20th.

Health experts fear the contact chain caused by the DRC’s first documented Ebola relapse may reach the town of Butembo. The FDA approves Merck’s vaccine for use in the United States.

Ebola Flares Up Amid Attacks On Health Workers In Congo

Security Council extends MONUSCO’s mandate by 12 months for “responsible” withdrawal - resolution 2502 (2019)

DRC MoH Statistics/WHO AFRO Dashboard (as of December 20)

WHO AFRO Dashboard

Total cases: 3,356

  • Confirmed cases: 3,238
  • Probable cases: 118

- Suspected cases: 488

Deaths: 2,220


-258,225 (Merck Vaccine)

-2,381 (Johnson & Johnson Vaccine)

First Ebola relapse recorded in Congo outbreak, WHO says

Reuters, 12/20/19

Health officials in eastern Congo have documented the first relapse in the current Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday. In early December, Congolese health authorities reported that a survivor in Mabalako, North Kivu province, had fallen ill with the virus again. Preliminary tests have since classified it as a relapse, the WHO said in a weekly report. Eleven new Ebola cases were confirmed in the past week, all of whom are believed to have caught the virus from the person who relapsed, according to the WHO.

Overall the case was a potential source of infection for 28 people, it said. “It is a single transmission chain but it is worrying,” said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, on Thursday. He said the situation in Mabalako was worrying partly due to its proximity to the town of Butembo, a populous trading hub and one-time epicentre of the outbreak. “We had a massive problem (in Butembo) only 6 months ago, so there is real concern that any continued transmission in Mabalako may potentially re-infect Butembo.” “That has created the perfect storm that has allowed virus to get away from us and go on underground,” Ryan said.

FDA approves an Ebola vaccine, long in development, for the first time

STAT News, 12/19/19

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it has approved an Ebola vaccine developed by Merck, making it the first for the deadly disease approved in the United States. The road to approval has been long for this vaccine, which will likely be stockpiled by some countries — the United States among them — as a hedge against a possible bioterrorism attack. The vaccine is also likely to make up a substantial portion of an emergency stockpile for outbreaks being put together by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for use in outbreaks. Gavi recently announced plans to establish a 500,000-dose stockpile. The Merck vaccine, given in a single dose, generates a quick immune response, with protection occurring within about 10 days. Those two features make it attractive as a tool for battling an outbreak.

Ervebo has been used in the current outbreak in DRC under “compassionate use,” a research protocol similar to one used in a clinical trial. It will continue to function in this manner for the foreseeable future because the vaccine currently being used was manufactured while the vaccine was unlicensed. The company is moving to start producing licensed doses of the vaccine, but that is a process that takes the better part of a year.


Tweet by Helen Branswell – 12/20/19


#Merck’s Ebola vaccine, which has been given to more than 258,000 people in the current outbreak in DRC, has been approved by @US_FDA. Took multitudes to bring this project to fruition. You know who you are — kudos!!!

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