Suspected ebola outbreak in Congo Brazzaville
Treatment methods conflict with local beliefs creating barriers to effective action.
14 February 2003
A total of 51 people are reported to have died of Ebola in western Cuvette province of Congo Brazzaville, located some 500km north of the capital Brazzaville. Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever transmitted through direct contact with body fluids of infected persons or other primates. There is no cure and between 50% and 90% of victims die. Last year, an outbreak in the same area cost 66 lives. During last year's outbreak, MSF focused on reducing the number of victims through strict isolation procedures to prevent spread of the disease. However, these measures were not accepted by the local population because they conflicted with their beliefs and resulting habits. With this outbreak, once again we face the same situation. So far, MSF has supported the Ministry of Health/WHO with isolation kits and other medical supplies. We are ready to respond directly in the event the population is welcoming such an intervention. MSF has a sleeping sickness program in Congo Brazzaville since 2000, a disease which is epidemic in Congo and has already killed thousands of people. Also MSF is concerned about the Pool situation, where tens of thousands of persons remain displaced in the forests by violence and war and who have no access to healthcare. Fighting erupted in the Pool region (the region surrounding the capital Brazzaville on three sides) between the government and Ninja Militia men, an armed rebel group in april last year. Since then, MSF has been asking the Government of Congo-Brazzaville access to this region, so far without success.