BEIJING — A team of Chinese health experts will depart for the Democratic Republic of Congo this week to help fight an Ebola outbreak in the west central African nation.
Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the experts will attempt to use a vaccine developed by China to help combat the disease.
The team, comprising four public health experts from the Chinese CDC and seven from other institutes including the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, will evaluate the situation on the ground and provide support to counterparts in Congo, including virus testing, he said.
“They will stay in Congo for a month according to the initial plan,” Gao said. “The places where outbreaks occurred are far away from the capital, and transport is inconvenient. We are still discussing the details of our work there.
“So in the initial period of the stay the team members will try to get familiar with the situation,” he said. “We will seek to use the Chinese developed vaccine there to help with control and prevention of the disease, but for the present the vaccines will likely only cover Chinese living in Congo.”
It’s also a pre-emptive intervention for China, as infectious diseases know no national borders, he said.
The vaccine, jointly developed by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and Cansinobio, a Chinese company involved in human vaccine development and production, was approved by China’s top drug regulator in October.
This made China the third country, after the United States and Russia, with a vaccine available to combat Ebola, according to the State Drug Administration.
The vaccine — recombinant Ebola virus disease vaccine (Adenovirus type 5 vector) — is available in powder and, compared with liquid vaccines in the other two countries, is more stable, which is an advantage in transportation and use in tropical areas such as Africa, the administration said.
Through Saturday, 53 confirmed or suspected Ebola cases had been reported since the most recent outbreak began on April 4. The World Health Organization said 25 people have died so far.
Health experts in Congo have located more than 1,000 people who have had contacted with the infected patients, and more than 680 have received Ebola vaccinations, the Associated Press reported.
Gao said vaccines developed by a US company are being used in Congo.
Ebola is a sever illness in humans, with fatality rates that have varied from 25 percent to 90 percent in past outbreaks, according to the WHO.
There are currently no licensed treatments available for Ebola, although multiple experimental therapies are being developed.
The largest outbreaks ever occurred in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea between 2014 and 2016, causing more than 11,300 deaths in the three West African countries, according to the WHO.
China delivered the largest scale public health assistance in history to other countries following the outbreaks, including sending more than 1,000 medical and public health experts to the countries to help fight the disease. It provided 750 million yuan ($117 million) in assistance, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Gao, from the Chinese CDC, said China will intensify cooperation with African nations to help them better cope with infectious disease prevention and control.
“We will fulfill our pledge to support the building of a center for disease control and prevention in Africa, including training experts in Africa,” he said. “We will help build a center on prevention, control and research of tropical diseases in Sierra Leone, and continue the monitoring of emerging pathogens such as Ebola in West Africa.”
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