copyright msf caption © MSF/Louise Annaud
A Doctors Without Borders staff member getting dressed in a protective suit in the Ebola Treatment Centre in Bikoro, Democratic Republic of Congo.
03 Jul 18 05 Jul 18

Democratic Republic of Congo: MSF hands over Ebola response activities after two-month emergency intervention

After a two-month emergency intervention in Equator Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams have begun handing over Ebola response activities to the Congolese Ministry of Health and other non-governmental organizations in Mbandaka, Bikoro, Itipo and Iboko.

“This Ebola outbreak is not yet officially over but we are very pleased with the progress that has been made,” said Henry Gray, Emergency Coordinator for MSF in Equator Province. “Given the low volume of cases and the increasing expertise of local staff the Ministry of Health is well placed to finish the work which we started together.”

Throughout the course of the outbreak, officially declared on May 8, Congolese Ministry of Health teams supported by MSF in Bikoro, Itipo, Mbandaka and Iboko, provided care to 38 confirmed patients, 24 of whom survived and returned to their homes. Sadly 14 died. Over 120 other patients who presented with symptoms consistent with Ebola were isolated and tested before being allowed to return home after testing negative for the virus.

Ebola is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease. As part of their daily ritual, workers don a special suit, double-layered gloves, and goggles. Kampungu village, Western Kasai province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The handover process began with the closure of MSF’s Ebola Transit Centre at the Itipo General Reference Hospital on June 20. All new suspect patients are now cared for at the nearby Ebola Treatment Centre managed by the organization ALIMA which is also taking care of outreach and surveillance activities in the affected areas and will assist the Ministry of Health to run a clinic for Ebola survivors.

MSF subsequently handed over the Ebola Treatment Centre at Bikoro’s General Reference Hospital on June 25 to Ministry of Health staff who continue to isolate and test those suspected of being infected by the Ebola virus. All outreach, surveillance, health promotion, disinfection and safe burial activities in Bikoro, have also been handed over to the Ministry of Health and other non-governmental organizations.

An MSF team is currently constructing a small isolation unit at the Mbandaka General Reference Hospital. Once completed, any new suspect patient will be isolated and tested for the virus in this new facility. The 40 bed Ebola Treatment Centre constructed by MSF on the outskirts of Mbandaka will be disinfected and dismantled by early July.

The Iboko General Reference Hospital’s Ebola Treatment Centre will be the last MSF supported structure to be handed over to the Ministry of Health on July 15. In the meantime, MSF will continue surveillance and outreach activities as well as support the hospital with paediatric care and infection prevention and control within the facility.

Finally, given that no new cases of Ebola have been reported since June 6, MSF teams, alongside teams from the World Health Organization (WHO), have completed the “ring vaccination” of all contacts of confirmed Ebola patients, as well as the contacts of their contacts with the investigational Ebola vaccine rVSVDG-ZEBOV-GP. Likewise, MSF’s vaccination of frontline workers in Bikoro and Iboko health zones was completed on 23 June. If there are no new confirmed cases of Ebola, the 21-day follow up of the last frontline workers vaccinated by MSF, and in turn MSF’s vaccination activities in Equator Province, will be completed on July 14.

 “We’re encouraged that there has been a massive international response to this Ebola outbreak, but Congolese people are much more likely to be affected by malaria, measles, cholera or violence related displacement than Ebola,” said Gray. “In addition to the medical activities that MSF already runs alongside the Ministry of Health around the DRC, MSF is now responding to a new outbreak of Cholera in Mbuji Maji (Eastern Kasai Province) and assessing how to best respond to the consequences of recent violence in Tshikula (Central Kasai Province).”

Bolakofo Konga Yule survived the infection after treatment in the Lokolia Ebola center. Coming back to the community is a very sensitive step, and family support is essential. Lokolia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Should there be no more confirmed cases of Ebola, the outbreak will be officially declared over by the Congolese health authorities on July 22. This date is 42 days (twice Ebola’s maximum incubation period) and one day after a safe burial was held for the last confirmed patient who died at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Bikoro.

MSF has worked in DRC since 1981, and today has regular and emergency projects in 20 of the country’s 26 provinces, offering medical care to the victims of conflict and violence, to displaced people and to those suffering from epidemics like hemorrhagic fever, cholera, measles and HIV/AIDS.

MSF Pulse: Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo

Watch the last episode of the MSF video series Pulse on efforts to contain the spread of Ebola in DRC.

 

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