Ebola virus disease first appeared in 1976. One of the world’s most deadly diseases, Ebola has a high mortality rate. While Ebola is a fragile virus that can be easily killed with heat, bleach, chlorine and even soap, it is easily transmitted through close contact – leading to rapidly growing outbreaks that are difficult to contain.

Crisis update – May 2018: an outbreak of Ebola has been declared in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak, in the northeast of the country, has affected dozens of people who have presented symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the region and a number of people have died. Read more below or follow @MSFcongo on Twitter.

MSF Pulse: Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo

Right now, our medical teams are on the ground in Democratic Republic of Congo responding to an outbreak of Ebola. In this episode of MSF Pulse, we look at what Ebola is, how it spreads and what we’re doing to respond to the current outbreak.

Ebola outbreak: MSF responds in Democratic Republic of Congo

Thirty-five cases of Ebola have been laboratory-confirmed by the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A total of 54 cases of hemorrhagic fever (FHV) have been confirmed, including 25 deaths. Still being investigated are 13 possible cases and six suspected cases of Ebola infection. 

Democratic Republic of Congo: MSF Ebola vaccination targets remote communities

Kinshasa, 29 May 2018 - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started vaccinating Ebola frontline workers yesterday in Bikoro, Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the organisation has been working with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) over the past few weeks. This trial vaccination will also be offered to contacts of patients.

Ebola Facts


The Ebola virus is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals; human-to-human transmission occurs through direct contact with blood, bodily secretions, organs and sick people.


Sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding.


On clinical basis, Ebola can be difficult to distinguish from a number of other infectious diseases; confirmation can be made using a number of different laboratory tests.


There are no proven treatments or licensed vaccines for Ebola; however two vaccines are undergoing human safety studies.


Outbreak control requires a package of interventions, including case management, surveillance and contact tracing, laboratory services, safe burials and social mobilization.


Ebola: A Q&A about a promising new Canadian-made vaccine, and MSF's role in the clinical trial

An interim review published in the medical journal The Lancet indicates very promising results for an Ebola vaccine candidate designed by scientists working at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. 

Dr. Bertrand Draguez, who has been spearheading the MSF platform on experimental tools for Ebola, tells us what that means for the fight against the disease.

The 2014-2015 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

The largest outbreak of Ebola in history was officially declared on March 22 2014 in Guinea. It claimed more than 11,300 lives in six affected countries in West Africa (GuineaLiberiaMaliNigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone), including over 500 healthcare staff – more than all previous outbreaks combined. Earlier outbreaks of Ebola occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, but the outbreak that began in 2014 included major urban areas as well, making contact tracing and control of transmission more difficult. The outbreak and its impact were exacerbated by high mobility of the population, weak health systems and lack of infrastructure and human resources in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three worst-affected countries.

On January 14, 2016, Liberia celebrated 42 days without any new Ebola infections, effectively marking the end of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The outbreak officially ended in June 2016.

The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) now calls on the global health community to draw on lessons learned in order to be better prepared for future outbreaks, such as the one currently ongoing in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). MSF is continuing its Ebola activities in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea by running support clinics for Ebola survivors.

The MSF response

MSF has intervened in almost all reported Ebola outbreaks in recent years, but until 2014 these were usually geographically contained and involved more remote locations. From the very beginning of the West African Ebola epidemic, MSF responded in the worst affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – by setting up Ebola management centres and providing services such as psychological support, health promotion, surveillance and contact tracing. At its peak, MSF employed nearly 4,000 national staff and over 325 international staff to combat the epidemic across the three countries. MSF admitted a total of 10,376 patients to its Ebola management centres, of which 5,226 were confirmed Ebola cases. In total, the organization spent over 96 million euros on tackling the epidemic.

Those who survived Ebola often found the battle was not over. Many faced significant medical and mental health problems such as joint pain, chronic fatigue, and hearing and vision problems. They also suffered from stigmatisation in their communities and required specific and tailored care. MSF set up dedicated survivors’ clinics in the three worst-affected countries.

The Aftermath

The transmission of Ebola from the big outbreak which affected more than 28,000 people in West Africa is over. However there is plenty of long-term impact felt in each of the three countries, from economic impact, to schools closing, to medical schools closing for an extended period of time. MSF was one of the biggest actors in the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in all three countries. 

Pushed to the limit and beyond: MSF on the global response to the Ebola outbreak 

In March 2015, MSF released a critical analysis of the Ebola epidemic over the previous year, revealing the shortcomings of the global response to the crisis and warning that the outbreak, despite an overall decline in cases, is not yet over. 

How MSF treats Ebola patients: medical protocols

Follow the link below to read a Q&A with MSF public health specialist Dr. Armand Sprecher, who describes the clinical protocols MSF has used and adapted during its response to the West African Ebola outbreak:

Eyewitness: Ebola


Reine Lebel, a Canadian psychologist, talks about her work with Ebola patients. 

The Boy Who Tricked Ebola

Mamadee is an eleven-year-old patient in Liberia who survived Ebola. Read his story here