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Democratic Republic of Congo: MSF sends specialists to Ebola epicentre

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors WIthout Borders (MSF) has launched a response to the confirmed Ebola viral hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The medical organization, present in DRC for more than thirty years, is sending doctors, nurses, logistics experts and hygiene specialists to the epicentre of this outbreak.

Samples test positive for Ebola

“We received confirmation on Sunday that four of the samples our team took last week have tested positive for Ebola virus,” says Jeroen Beijnberger, MSF Medical Coordinator in DRC.

“We are responding fast to try to isolate the suspect and confirmed patients and to start the work of contact tracing.”

Working with the Congolese Ministry of Health, MSF is setting up an Ebola management centre in Lokolia, the area most affected by the outbreak in the Boende health zone.

“Our key objective for now is to do all we can to stop the outbreak spreading and to protect other people from catching the virus,” says Beijnberger.

No link with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been established, although that cannot be categorically discounted.

Protection and coordination in Ebola response

MSF teams responding to an Ebola outbreak in Western Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.  Photo: Luis Encinas/MSF.

In the first phase of response to a new hemorrhagic fever outbreak, protection of patients and health workers is the top priority.

Good coordination is also required to ensure that all levels of leadership - from the highest government levels to the local community leaders and village chiefs – pass accurate and constructive information to the population, that burial teams are organised with proper infection control measures, and that contact tracing and epidemiological monitoring are done swiftly and efficiently to avoid the spread of the outbreak.

“Usually we would be able to mobilise specialist hemorrhagic fever teams, but we are currently responding to a massive epidemic in West Africa,” says Beijnberger. “This is limiting our capacity to respond to the epidemic in Equateur Province.

We need other organisations to step up and joint the efforts to support the Ministry of Health: we will not be able to do this one alone.”

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