THOUSANDS of lives could be saved after the first Ebola vaccine was approved for use in Europe.
US drugmaker Merck & Co received consent to market the booster, known as Ervebo, from the European Commission on Monday.
The drug is already being used under emergency guidelines to try to protect against the spread of the deadly virus in Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ebola vaccine, which is approved for individuals aged 18 or over, was authorised less than a month after the European Medicines Agency recommended it be licensed.
EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides said: “The EU is supporting international efforts to combat Ebola on all fronts, from vaccine development to delivering humanitarian aid on the ground.”
Merck’s chairman and chief executive officer, Ken Frazier, added: “The European Commission’s marketing authorization of Ervebo is the result of an unprecedented collaboration for which the entire world should be proud.”
The current outbreak is largely confined to Congo – and has been at such a scale that the UN health agency declared the epidemic, the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history – as an international emergency in July.
To date, there have been 3,113 confirmed cases and more than 2,150 people have died since the epidemic was first declared last August.
The youngster had travelled across the border into Congo with four family members, including his mother and father, to visit his grandad.
After showing symptoms, including vomiting blood, he was taken to hospital near the border in Uganda where a diagnosis of Ebola was confirmed by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI) on June 11.
His grandma also died from the disease, health officials confirmed.
The terrifying surge in deaths has resulted in the Ebola epidemic being declared an international health emergency, which will result in greater international attention and aid.
It’s only the fifth such designation, after the 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic that killed over 11,300 people, the 2009 flu pandemic, polio in 2014 and the Zika virus that caused a spate of birth defects across Latin America.
Deadly virus: What is Ebola, what are the symptoms and can it be treated?
THE Ebola virus can spread quickly and be fatal in up to 90% of cases.
Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.
The virus is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms and with contaminated objects such as sheets.
Health care workers are often at risk.
Early care such as rehydration helps to improve the chances of survival.
Some patients in the latest outbreak have received experimental treatments but their effect has not been fully studied.
An experimental Ebola vaccine has been effective in its first widespread use, and more than 163,000 people have been vaccinated.
The vaccine’s testing was sped up during the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014-16 that killed more than 11,300 people.
The outbreak in 2013 was catastrophic, leaving whole communities in ruins, thousands of children orphans and millions facing starvation.
Nearly 30,000 people across the three nations were infected with the disease.
The Ebola virus disease – previously called Ebola haemorrhagic fever – causes hemorrhagic fever and spreads from person to person through direct contact with body fluids.
Coming into a contact with an Ebola patient’s blood secretions, organs, sweat, urine, tears, semen and other fluids, can cause the infection to spread.
It kills around half of those it infects.
More on ebola
Those at highest risk are typically healthcare workers, family members of those infected and other people who come into close contact with an infected person.
Sexual transmission can occur, from men to women or men, after a person’s symptoms have disappeared and they are declared free from the disease.
As such, world health experts advise abstaining from unprotected sex for up to nine months after being given the all clear – as scientific studies have found traces of Ebola in men’s semen after this length of time.