Washington, DC - This week, the Ebola outbreak that began in August 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reached 3,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. HHS Secretary Alex Azar released the following statement:
“This week’s news is a tragic milestone in the course of a disease outbreak that has stolen far too many lives. The United States will continue its aggressive response to the outbreak, and has already led in providing access to the best available vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and epidemiological expertise needed to stop the spread of Ebola and save lives. Security issues in the affected areas make this the most challenging Ebola outbreak in history, but the U.S. government and our local and international partners remain undeterred and will not rest until the outbreak is ended. Just recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doubled its number of experts on the ground in the DRC. Stopping this Ebola outbreak will remain a top global health priority for the Trump Administration. In close cooperation with the World Health Organization and Director-General Tedros, we look forward to continuing the work needed to end the outbreak.”
Background on HHS Work to End the Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently doubled the number of outbreak response experts in DRC and will have 30 responders on the ground by September 1 to work on case investigation, contact tracing, disease tracking, safe burials, community engagement and risk communication, laboratory testing, and border health. CDC staff have conducted more than 360 deployments in response to the outbreak.
CDC’s Emergency Operations Center continues to provide 24/7 technical assistance to the ministries of health of the DRC and its neighboring countries, in collaboration with international partners, to ensure the response is robust, well-coordinated, and focused on bringing the outbreak to an end.
On August 21, HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced that it would be providing an additional $23 million to Merck to produce doses of its investigational Ebola vaccine over the next year for use in the DRC and in other nations as warranted. This vaccine is currently being used in a ring vaccination strategy as part of the overall Ebola response strategy. ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority will continue to work with Merck on advanced development of the vaccine toward obtaining FDA licensure.
The recent commitment brings BARDA’s support for the Merck vaccine to approximately $176 million, on top of numerous pre-clinical and clinical research projects related to the vaccine’s development that received support from by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense.
On August 12, the NIH announced that two investigational treatments showed promise in a clinical trial taking place at Ebola treatment centers in the DRC, allowing the trial to be stopped early. Now all future patients in the trial will receive one of the two more promising investigational treatments: the monoclonal antibody mAb114, developed by NIH scientists, or REGN-EB3. The trial, which began in November 2018, has been co-sponsored and funded by the DRC government and NIH, and carried out by an international research consortium coordinated by the WHO.