Traditional Congolese Healers, Key to Fight Ebola in DRC

Henrietta Strickland
June 10, 2018

Congo's health ministry late Thursday announced a new confirmed Ebola case, bringing the total to 38, including 13 deaths.

There had been no new cases since mid-May in two of the three areas hit by the disease - the initial outbreak zone of Bikoro and the city of Mbandaka, he said, describing the health response as showing "very strong progress".

Motorcycles are only now arriving and health workers are sleeping 15 to 20 people to a tent.

World Health Organization is now entering a new phase in which it moves its focus from urban areas to the extremely remote forest areas in north-western Congo where the outbreak began.

He said that the first phase - protecting urban centres and towns - "has gone well, and we can be cautiously optimistic". In summary, there has been very strong progress in outbreak response, " Salama said.

Beginning with the 1976 discovery of Ebola in an area that is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country has experienced nine outbreaks.

The outbreak, which began in the remote northwest and was declared in the town of Bikoro, has spread to the city of Mbandaka with a population of more than one million. "And then if there is a confirmation of a case, every contact of those cases", he explained. More than 98% of known contacts have been vaccinated, Salama said.

Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign will turn the focus of the response to rural and isolated communities, "some of the most remote territories on earth" and home to "indigenous" and "marginalized" populations, he said. That has complicated efforts to track contacts of those infected.

On the front lines of the outbreak, health officials use a tool called contact tracing to break the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus.

The area had no infrastructure and could be covered only by motorbike, with several hours needed to trace every contact, he said.

However, the Congolese government is considering other experimental treatments that it is evaluating for use.

Based on the IHR assessment and status of core capacities implementation in countries, the plan lays out WHO's recommendations to ensure that these countries are operationally ready to prevent the importation of cases, implement risk mitigation, detection and response measures for Ebola.

"We're cautiously optimistic but there's a lot of work", said Salama. "We've learned the hard way in the past to never underestimate Ebola".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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