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Ebola outbreak serious and concerning

31 May 2018

An Ebola outbreak has been declared in Equateur province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak has affected dozens of people. There have been 54 people presenting with symptoms, including 35 confirmed cases of Ebola and 25 deaths, according to figures from DRC’s Ministry of Health.

Worryingly, there have been four confirmed cases in the city of Mbandaka, a busy port city located on the Congo River that is home to more than a million people. To tackle the epidemic and limit as much as possible the risk of it spreading, our teams are quickly responding.

MSF steps up its response

Our teams have a lot of experience and expertise working in Ebola epidemics. Some of MSF’s most experienced Ebola field workers, including medical personnel, experts in infection control and logisticians, including three Australians, have been brought in to help stop the outbreak in its tracks.

Our emergency teams are already on site and have set up two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETC) with 12 and 20 beds each. Teams are tracing people who have been in contact with confirmed Ebola cases. 

Ebola vaccination targets remote communities

As one part of the strategy to control the Ebola outbreak, our teams are vaccinating Ebola front-line workers. The vaccination is also being offered to contacts of patients. The Ebola vaccine (rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP) has not yet been licensed but has been approved for use.

Based on the results of these trials we are confident in using the vaccine for this current outbreak. Given that it has not yet been licensed, we will be closely monitoring the vaccination. The results of the trial suggest that the vaccine will present a real benefit to people at high risk of contracting Ebola, protecting them against the infection. However, vaccination remains just one additional tool in the fight against the disease. Identifying patients and contacts is the first step,” says Micaela Serafini, Medical Director of MSF in Geneva.

Local understanding is critical

Building a good understanding with local communities is vital. Medical and health promotion teams are working hard to explain what the symptoms of Ebola are, how to avoid infection and the importance of coming to clinics quickly. If patients are admitted and receive medical care quickly, the sooner their families are protected and there is a greater chance of limiting the spread of the epidemic.