DRC: Tackling the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province

SOUTH SUDAN © Valérie Batselaere/MSF


Update: May 28, 2018

According to the Congolese Ministry of Health:

  • 54 people presented symptoms of hemorrhagic fever
  • 35 cases confirmed as Ebola
  • 25 people have died (12 confirmed as Ebola)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is stepping up its response to tackle the latest outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and limit the spread of the disease.

One new laboratory-confirmed case was reported on May 16 in Mbandaka, a busy port city on the Congo river with a population of more than a million. This new case is linked with the epicenter of the epidemic in Equateur province, east of Lake Tumba. Since the beginning of the epidemic 44 people have presented symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in Equateur province—including three confirmed as Ebola. There have been a total of 23 deaths so far.

"With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become more serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area." 

—MSF emergency coordinator Henry Gray

“This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in Congo in the last 40 years,” explains Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator in Mbandaka. “So far, all of them have occurred in remote and isolated areas, as was the case last year in Likati, when the epidemic didn’t spread. With the new case confirmed in Mbandaka, the scenario has changed, and it has become more serious and worrying, since the disease is now affecting an urban area. It is paramount to trace the suspect case in order to have a clearer view on how it reached the city. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and other organizations in the field to implement a coordinated, tailored, and rapid response to stop the spread of Ebola.”

At present, 514 people who may have been in contact with infected people have been notified by the national health authorities and are currently being monitored in Mbandaka and Bikoro.

MSF emergency teams are already on site and have set up an isolation area in Mbandaka’s main hospital (five beds) and one in Bikoro hospital (10 beds). Teams are also setting up two Ebola treatment centers (ETCs) in Mbandaka and Bikoro with 20 beds each.

In the next few days, several tons of supplies will arrive in Mbandaka—including medical kits; protection and disinfection kits containing isolation items such as protective clothing, gloves, and boots; logistical and hygiene kits containing items such as plastic sheets, chlorine spray kits, and water treatment kits; and palliative drugs to treat Ebola symptoms, such as strong painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, and antibiotics.

Among the MSF staff on the ground are some of our most experienced Ebola responders, including medical personnel, experts in infection control, and logisticians.

MSF and its research arm Epicentre are also working closely with the Congolese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the implementation of the Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP as an additional measure to control the outbreak.

While this strategy is being put in place, the “pillars” of an Ebola intervention—early treatment and isolation of sick people; tracing and following up contacts; informing people about the disease, how to prevent it, and where to seek care; supporting existing health care; and temporarily changing cultural behavior around funerals—must continue in order to stem the spread of the disease.