Early response was built on experience, collaboration, and access to funds
In a remote forested corner of the country with little access to electricity and telecommunications, everything that health workers needed to contain the Ebola outbreak that was recognized on May 11 in the Democratic Republic of Congo had to be sent in — generators, medicines, personal protective equipment, the makings of mobile laboratories that could test samples on site, for Ebola care centers, and skilled workers to put all of that to use. Nearly 600 people who had had contact with infected individuals, or with their relatives had to be found and closely monitored. Locals had to be organized to build and improve roads and improvised bridges. Public education campaigns had to spread word of risks and how to avoid them across widely distanced communities. The challenges to transporting people across long stretches of rough terrain would mean the sick would have to be cared for at home.
For all of those challenges, the World Health Organization declared the the outbreak officially ended July 2, when 42 days had passed since the last confirmed patient tested negative for the virus for the second time. A total of eight people had been stricken with the disease, and four had died, according to WHO. In a country that had seen seven previous outbreaks, the latest was controlled in record time, the agency noted. The unlicensed vaccine readied for use if needed to control the outbreak was never put to use. Some of the obstacles that challenged responses also hindered the spread of the virus.
But it was a combination of hard-earned lessons, within the country, and among international partners, and a commitment to put them to use, expertise gathered during previous outbreaks including the recent West Africa Ebola crisis, access to flexible funding, systems built in the United States and adapted by the DCR that included the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, that worked together to bridge gaps and speed disease detection, diagnosis, communication, and care, according to WHO and CDC.