A team of seven Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers landed today at noon at Luebo’s airstrip, 15 kilometres from Kampungu, Democratic Republic of Congo, where seven of their colleagues have been working since September 2. The new team consists of an epidemiologist, a doctor, a nurse, a logistician, an expert in water-and-sanitation, a psychologist and an administrator.
The MSF epidemiologist, in collaboration with representatives from the Congolese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), will assess the situation in the whole area where suspected cases have been recorded. The objective is to have as soon as possible a clearer picture of the outbreak, including learning more about case definition, identifying the places where cases come from, and tracing people who have been in contact with those who are sick.
MSF experts will then ensure deceased people are buried in a way that prevents contamination, using specific materials such as body bags and spraying. An important part of MSF’s work will be to keep the population informed about the disease, the epidemic, and ways to avoid as much as possible the spread of the outbreak. Since the arrival of the first MSF team in Kampungu, 25 severe cases suspected to be Ebola haemorrhagic fever have been hospitalised at Kampungu's health centre. Among them, eight patients have died. "Currently, we have five patients in the isolation ward," said Rosa Crestani, the MSF emergency team coordinator in Kampungu.
"Three of them are extremely sick and two moderate." These patients are followed up and treated as much as possible by the MSF team in the isolation structure set up by MSF. "Our isolation centre is basically divided in three parts," addded Crestani. "One is completely isolated, where the sick patients are; another is where the staff dresses with the complete protection uniform and then undresses after having been in contact with the patients; and the third part is a space for disinfection in between. In the coming days, we will decide with the Ministry of Health and the WHO whether we set up isolation structures in other locations of the health zone." Eighteen tons of MSF logistical material, water and sanitation material, and medical supplies have now been transported to the province of West Kasai.
Transporting this material from airstrips to the area of the outbreak is a logistical challenge, given the extreme bad state of roads, worsened by the rainy season that just started. Travel between Kananga, the provincial capital city, and the outbreak zone (250 kilometres) takes up to three days. In addition, MSF is carrying out external consultations in Kampungu. On September 13, two suspected cases were referred from the outpatient department to the isolation ward.