Dr. Salama, the United Nations health agency's Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, was fresh from a two-day visit to the DRC.
The Ministry of Health, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and other global organizations, have been carrying out a vaccination campaign in the three areas for the past two weeks, and about 1,400 people have already been vaccinated. Salama said he is "cautiously optimistic". In summary, there has been very strong progress in outbreak response, " Salama said.
This comes as an AP Friday report indicated that the pace of new Ebola cases has slowed down one month after the outbreak was officially declared.
"It's extremely likely the vaccine has had a positive effect", said Salama, basing his assessment on the fact that in Mbandaka there have been no confirmed cases since mid-May and a large portion of contacts have been vaccinated there.
World Health Organization said four of the five approved drugs are now in the country, which are Zmapp, GS-5734, REGN monoclonal antibody combination, and mAb114, under the framework of compassionate use and expanded access.
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"We are cautiously optimistic, but there is a lot of very tough work to do to be able say we are on top of the outbreak", Salama said. This is the first time such treatments are available in the midst of an Ebola outbreak.
"We have added cause for optimism because now we have reached... more than 98 percent of the contacts with vaccination", Salama said.
Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign will turn the focus of the response to rural and isolated communities, "some of the most remote territories on earth" and home to "indigenous" and "marginalized" populations, he said.
The area had no infrastructure and could be covered only by motorbike, with several hours needed to trace every contact, he said.
The other was reported from the area of Iboko, but the family were refusing to allow doctors to take a blood sample to test for Ebola, it said.
Clinicians working in the treatment centres will make decisions on which drug to use as deemed helpful for their patients, and appropriate for the setting. "But we know to never underestimate Ebola".