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New Ebola vaccine is tested in Congo

The World Health Organization rushed 7,500 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo. (Source: CDC) The World Health Organization rushed 7,500 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo. (Source: CDC)

(RNN) – The sheer numbers are staggering.

The last Ebola outbreak to hit African killed 11,310 people, according to the World Health Organization. Between March of 2014 and April 2016, the virus infected more than 28,000 in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Healthcare workers rushed to the Congo last month on word of a new outbreak.

And as they did, they brought with them a new experimental vaccine. One they hope will keep the numbers much smaller.

Congo's health ministry and WHO rushed in 7,500 doses when the outbreak began.

“This is the first time that we are starting a vaccination campaign in the middle of an Ebola outbreak with an opportunity to stop Ebola,” Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO assistant director-general, said.

 “The tools that we had in the past worked but it has been difficult. This is a new tool, gives us a new hope to stop Ebola more quickly.”

The current Ebola outbreak has killed 14 people so far, Congo's Ministry of Health said. There have been 38 confirmed infections.

In recent weeks, WHO teams have vaccinated hundreds of people in Mbandaka, a city of more than 300,000 in northwest Congo.

The focus is now shifting to remote rural areas.

The vaccine is being given to healthcare workers and people immediately around those who’ve come down with Ebola. The method is called ring vaccination.

Health officials hope they can contain the virus using the approach because there’s not enough medicine for everyone.

"I just spent the day out with the vaccination teams in the community, and for the first time in my experience, I saw hope in the face of Ebola and not terror,” Ryan said. “This is a major milestone for global public health."

Very few Ebola cases have made their way to the United States.

The first one was confirmed in late September 2014.

Thomas Duncan was visiting from Liberia when he got sick and was diagnosed in Dallas. He died less than two weeks later.

Two of Duncan’s nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas also got sick but survived. They are the only two Ebola cases ever contracted in the United States.

Before the end of October, a fourth and final case was diagnosed in America. Physician Craig Spencer had just returned from Africa where he had been treating patients in Guinea.

In total, seven patients were evacuated to the United States from other countries for treatment. One of them died.

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