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Ebola virus disease – Democratic Republic of the Congo

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is at a key juncture. Recent trends (Figure 1) suggest that control measures are working. Over the past week, contact follow-up rates have substantially improved, most patients recently admitted to Ebola treatment centres (ETC) received therapeutics within hours of being confirmed, and ring vaccination activities have scaled to reach contacts (and their contacts) of most confirmed cases reported in the last three weeks. However, the outbreak trend must be interpreted with caution. Since the last Disease Outbreak News on 24 August 2018, 13 additional confirmed and probable cases have been reported, the majority (n=8) were from the city of Beni. Moreover, substantial risks remain, posed by potential undocumented chains of transmission; four of the 13 new cases were not known contacts. Likewise, sporadic instances of high-risk behaviours in some communities (such as unsafe burials, reluctance towards contact tracing, vaccination and admission to ETCs if symptoms developed), poor infection prevention and control (IPC) practices in some community health centres, and delays in patients reaching ETCs when symptoms develop, all have the potential to further propagate the outbreak.

As of 29 August 2018, a total of 116 EVD cases (86 confirmed and 30 probable) including 77 deaths (47 confirmed and 30 probable)1 have been reported in five health zones in North Kivu (Beni, Butembo, Oicha, Mabalako, Musienene) and one health zone in Ituri (Mandima). Eight suspected cases from Mabalako (n=5) and Beni (n=3) are currently pending laboratory testing to confirm or exclude EVD. The majority of cases (65 confirmed and 21 probable) have been reported from Mabalako Health Zone (Figure 2). The median age of confirmed and probable cases is 35 years (interquartile range 19–45.5 years), and 56% were female (Figure 3).

Fifteen cases have been reported among health workers, of which 14 were laboratory confirmed; one has died. All health worker exposures likely occurred in health facilities outside of the dedicated ETCs. WHO and partners continue to work with health workers and communities to increase awareness on IPC measures, as well as vaccinate those at risk of infection.

In addition to the ongoing response activities within outbreak affected areas, the MoH, WHO and partners will be implementing a 30-day strategic plan to ensure operational readiness measures against EVD are strengthened in all provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The first phase of implementation will prioritise six provinces at highest risk of case importations: South Kivu, Maniema, Ituri, Tanganika, Haut Uele and Bas Uele. The main objective is to ensure that these provinces implement essential operational readiness measures, including enhancing surveillance, IPC and social mobilization to mitigate, rapidly detect, investigate and effectively respond to a possible outbreak of EVD.

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