With Ebola cases rising, officials launch new infection control steps

Health worker with patient in DR Congo
Health worker with patient in DR Congo

World Bank, Vincent Tremeau / Flickr cc

Over the weekend and through today, 12 more Ebola cases were confirmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), lifting the overall outbreak total to 3,081.

In other developments, the DRC, with support from its global health partners, launched new infection prevention and control (IPC) efforts to curb healthcare-acquired infections.

Another health worker infected

In updates on Aug 7 and 8, the DRC's multisector Ebola response committee (CMRE) noted 10 more cases. One of them involves a healthcare worker in Butembo, putting the number of medical team members infected by the virus to 157, which includes 41 deaths. So far, 5% of people infected in the DRC's outbreak have been health workers.

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) online Ebola dashboard reflects 2 new cases today, putting the outbreak total at 3,081. Health officials are still investigating 403 suspected infections.

The two recent CMRE updates show that illnesses were reported in five locations. Three were reported in Mambasa, 2 in Beni, and 2 in Kyondo. In addition, Butembo, Katwa, and Mandima each had 1 case.

Twelve more people have died from Ebola, lifting the fatality count to 2,064, according to numbers reflected over the past few days from official sources, including the WHO's online Ebola dashboard. And of seven deaths covered in the two more recent CMRE updates, four occurred in community settings, which increases the risk of transmission, and three happened at Ebola treatment centers.

Keeping health facilities safe from Ebola

The DRC's health ministry on Sep 5 launched IPC guidelines and training targeting more than 3,000 nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers, according to a Sep 6 WHO statement.

In the outbreak region, local people often turn first to local health centers, which aren't as prepared to detect the virus and isolate patients as are Ebola treatment centers. The spread of Ebola to medical staff and among patients has been a persistent problem in the DRC's outbreak.

As of Aug 25, nearly 18% of all cases were nosocomial infections, the WHO said.

The new steps by the DRC government are designed to shore up potential weak points and use standard guidelines revised by experts from the health ministry, the WHO, UNICEF, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, the WHO's regional director for Africa, said in the statement,  "As part of our commitment to strengthening the health system of the DRC, we want to ensure that health facilities are not contributing to the spread of infectious diseases and this includes Ebola."

The IPC training package is supported with funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Department for International Development, and the World Bank. It will be rolled out over the next 3 months, beginning in Goma and targeting healthcare workers and others involved in the primary response. The WHO said the efforts will be monitored over the coming year to evaluate the effectiveness of the new steps.

See also:

WHO online Ebola dashboard

Sep 8 CMRE update

Sep 7 CMRE update

Sep 6 WHO statement

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