U.S. Government makes significant contribution to joint response to Ebola outbreak in DRC

By early May 2018, 21 suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever were reported in and around of Bikoro in the DRC’s Equateur. Provincial health teams began a hemorrhagic fever outbreak investigation, and the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus in two patients.  On May 8, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo publically declared the ninth Ebola outbreak in the DRC.

Drawing heavily on the DRC’s experience in managing past Ebola outbreaks, the U.S. government response provided through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) focused on supporting the following MOH immediate priorities:

  • Preventing deaths in health facilities by distributing protective equipment for health workers and providing clinical training;
  • Preventing deaths in communities by urging ill persons to seek care quickly;
  • Preventing disease spread by promoting handwashing, proper sewage disposal, and safe burials;
  • Supporting laboratory testing to rapidly identify and treat cases;
  • Conducting field investigations to define risk factors and guide prevention strategies; and
  • Supporting contact monitoring to track the spread of the disease

Coordination of Response
The CDC office in Kinshasa coordinated CDC’s response to the outbreak, in collaboration with its Emergency Operations Center as well as the Global Diseases Detection Center in Atlanta, Georgia. CDC staff involved included medical officers, epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, environmental health specialists, communication specialists, public health advisors, planners, information technology specialists, and support staff.  CDC also provided Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT). USAID’s response was coordinated through its Global Health Security Agenda and Emerging Pandemic Threats offices and its resident public health officers in the DRC.  Among those involved were Health Officers, Infectious Disease Advisors, and Emerging Pandemic Threats Advisors. USAID support permitted the INRB to perform initial confirmatory testing and helped to ensure that the necessary lab equipment and supplies were available to the MOH.

Rapid Response
Within days of the declared outbreak, the U.S. government mobilized resources to support the response effort.  USAID contributed $8 million dollars to support the joint Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Response Plan to the outbreak.  In addition to this funding, USAID provided personal protective equipment, laboratory supplies, the mobilization of two existing mobile labs, and a robust presence on the ground. Working with its DRC implementing partners, CDC provided logistical, financial and technical support to the response providing technical assistance on surveillance, case investigation and contact tracing, clinical care, and information/communication. The total U.S. Government contribution to the Ebola response and containment effort was approximately $10,000,000 (ten million USD).