Since the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was declared on 8 May 2018, 54 people who presented symptoms of haemorrhagic fever, including 35 confirmed Ebola cases and 25 deaths (of whom 12 were confirmed as Ebola), have been notified by the national health authorities in the Equateur region, where the outbreak started.
To this effect Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa has launched an appeal to raise funds to fight the Ebola outbreak in DRC. Every second counts, every patient matters, every donation is vital.
The outbreak is currently affecting the city of Mbandaka and the health zones of Bikoro (Bikoro and Iboko villages), and Iboko (Itipo and Iboko villages). Bikoro, a small city where some Ebola cases have been detected, is approximately four hours drive from Mbandaka. Connections with Bikoro are also possible via Lake Tumba, which the local community uses to reach the Congo River.
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in DRC in the last 40 years. So far, most of the previous outbreaks have occurred in relatively remote and isolated areas, with little spread of the disease. The last Ebola outbreaks in DRC occurred in Likati district in May 2017, with eight people infected, of whom four died, and in Boende (Thsuapa region) in 2014, with 66 people, of whom 49 died.
MSF’s first priority has been to provide isolation units to content patients and bring the infection under control. Because Ebola is so contagious, patients must remain in these units and be cared for inside. Even family members are normally not allowed to visit the patients.
Tragically, those who don’t recover will never get to touch the face of a loved one again – or even see their families once they are diagnosed. In treatment centres patients are being given IV fluids to prevent dehydration, maintaining blood pressure, providing nutritional supplements and pain relief, all of which help the patient’s own system to fight the disease.
During the past few weeks, MSF has been working closely with the Congolese Ministry of Health (MoH) and with other organisations on the ground to coordinate the response.
The response is based on the ‘six pillars’ of Ebola intervention
- Care of diagnosed patients and isolation;
- Outreach activities to find patients;
- Tracing and follow-up with patient contacts;
- Health promotion activities to inform people about the risks and how to avoid them;
- Support of regular healthcare;
- Safe burials to avoid infections.
LATEST MSF OPERATIONAL UPDATE
To tackle the Ebola epidemic and limit the spread of the virus, MSF) is stepping up its response in the affected areas. MSF emergency teams are present in four locations where suspect and confirmed patients have been identified, and are working in collaboration with DRC’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and the WHO.
The organisation currently operates two Ebola Treatment Centres (ETC), with a total of 32 beds in isolation, and one transit centre in Itipo. As of 29 May, we are currently caring for 19 patients. Around 60 tonnes of supplies have been shipped to Kinshasa and dispatched to the affected areas since the beginning of the epidemic.
MSF’s Ebola response in DRC started on 5 May, with an epidemiological alert in the Equateur region. A small team from MSF’s Congo Emergency Pool (PUC) assessed the situation, together with teams from the MoH and WHO. When the Ebola epidemic was officially declared on 8 May, experts from MSF’s emergency pools arrived in the field to deploy a rapid response in the Ebola hotspots. Among the MSF staff on the ground are some of the organisation’s most experienced Ebola field workers, including medical personnel, experts in infection control and logisticians.
At the beginning of the outbreak, we set up an isolation zone with five beds in Mbandaka’s main hospital (Wangata hospital). An MSF ETC with 12 beds was also built, and has been operational since 28 May. The bed capacity in the ETC can be upgraded to 40 if needed. This will allow the main hospital to refocus on providing non-Ebola healthcare to the local population.
In addition to the treatment and isolation of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases, the focus of MSF’s response is on surveillance, investigation of new cases and contacts, infection control and prevention, health promotion and training activities.
The team is also intervening in Bikoro, where an MSF ETC with 20 beds has been built, and continues to reinforce outreach activities including investigation on contact cases, monitoring and surveillance.
MSF teams are also present in the remote areas of Itipo and Iboko, where suspected and confirmed Ebola cases have been identified. In Itipo, a transit centre with isolation capacity is already functional. In this transit centre, suspected cases are isolated and cared for, and samples are taken to confirm diagnosis. If Ebola is confirmed, they are transferred to the Bikoro ETC.
In Iboko, an isolation area has been built in the main hospital and the team is constructing a further ETC.
- Staff on the ground - date of information: 28/05/2018
TOTAL: 60 international and 106 national staff are currently working in Equateur province in response to the Ebola outbreak.
- Supply material - date of information: 26/05/2018
Supply material includes: medical kits; protection and disinfection kits (isolation items such as gloves, boots and Personal Protective Equipment-PPE, etc.); logistic and hygiene kits (plastic sheets, jerry cans, water distribution kits, chlorine spray kits, water treatment kits, etc.); drugs; transport (cars and motorbikes); tents and construction material for building ETCs.
As part of MSF’s emergency preparedness in DRC, some supplies were already available in Kinshasa. These were sent to hotspot zones as soon as the outbreak started.
Sixty tonnes of supplies (sent from MSF supply centres in Europe) have been received in Kinshasa. A total 45 tonnes of supplies (medical and logistical supplies, including six vehicles and 10 motorbikes) have already been sent to Mbandaka and Bikoro, with more to be sent in the coming days.