MSF emergency team responds to Ebola in DR Congo

An emergency team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to an outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Isiro, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). MSF’s team is implementing safety measures at the Ebola treatment centre in Isiro to contain the virus.

So far there have been nine deaths in the current outbreak, only one of which has been laboratory-confirmed as Ebola. Twelve more people are suspected of having the disease, one of whom has been admitted to the treatment centre in Isiro. One patient who contracted the disease has made a full recovery.  

Another MSF emergency team has been in Kibaale district, in western Uganda, since late July in response to an outbreak that has killed 16 people. However, these two outbreaks involve different strains of the virus: the Ebola-Bundibugyo strain in DRC and the Ebola-Sudan strain in western Uganda.

“The outbreak in Uganda and the one in DRC are not related,” says Olimpia DE LA ROSA, MSF emergency coordinator. “This strengthens the idea that the Ebola virus is transmitted by close contact, making it less likely to cross borders.”

In Uganda’s Kibaale district, an MSF team is continuing to work with the Ugandan Ministry of Health and organisations including the Ugandan Red Cross, the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Indications are that the epidemic centred in the town of Kagadi is being successfully contained. The last confirmed case of Ebola was reported on 4 August. An outbreak is considered at an end after 42 days without any new confirmed cases.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever was detected for the first time in humans in 1976 in Zaire (now DRC). It is transmitted through body fluids and has a high mortality rate, depending on the strain of the virus and people’s genetic susceptibility to the disease.