Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Vaccinations of front line healthcare workers have begun in Uganda to stop an outbreak of the Ebola virus, officials said Wednesday.
The World Health Organization and Ugandan Health Ministry are inoculating at least 2,100 workers, the ministry announced. It is the first time the vaccine has been offered before an Ebola outbreak even starts.
Officials fear the epidemic will spread from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and are implementing the plan so healthcare workers don't catch the virus and spread it.
The current Ebola outbreak in DRC is the country's second in 2018. The last outbreak, contained in July, sickened 53 people and killed 33.
At least 300 suspected cases have been reported in the DRC in the latest outbreak, with 265 confirmed. It's caused 151 death so far, the WHO said.
No Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda, but the WHO said communities on the DRC-Uganda border will likely be infected soon.
The strategy in Uganda involves an experimental vaccine, which officials say will not be given to the public. More than 26,000 people in the DRC have been inoculated in a "ring vaccination" policy in which those who have been in contact with an Ebola patient are vaccinated. People who have been in contact with those persons are then also vaccinated. The tactic helped eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.
The spread of Ebola in the DRC is worsened by an ongoing civil war between militant groups and government forces. The conflict slows healthcare workers' attempts to fight the virus.
Ebola was first identified in central Africa in 1976. In 2000 and 2001, 574 people were infected and 261 died in Uganda. More than 28,000 people were infected and 11,000 died in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea between 2014 and 2016.