Efforts continue to contain the Ebola
outbreak in the DRC’s Western Kasai Province. The epicenter of the outbreak is
a village called Kaluamba, the scene of a previous outbreak in 2007. Thirteen
deaths have been reported so far.
Michel Van Herp is with Doctors Without Borders. He is the head of mission in Kaluamba
and spoke to VOA’s English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the
current situation there.
“For today, we have 44 cases in the
data base and among them we have 13 deaths. It’s clear that among the cases, we
still need to…work to determine very well who are probable of (having) Ebola
and who is not (infected with) Ebola,” he says.
tests are currently underway to determine the exact number of Ebola cases and
those tests cannot be done in the field.
the moment, the outbreak seems to be very localized.… It’s really the same
village as September 2007, where we had an outbreak of Ebola,” he says.
Herp says that the current outbreak differs from last year’s in that alerts of
a possible outbreak were filed much more quickly this year, and thus brought a
quicker response. “We hope that the disease will remain in the same area and
will not be exported outside the area where we work,” he says.
initial reports of an Ebola outbreak are made, Doctors Without Borders sends an
outreach team to the area to confirm those reports. If the outbreak is
confirmed, sick people are either placed in isolation or special measures are
taken to care for them in their homes. The latter is done if patients fear
being placed in isolation. Health officials also need to know who the patients
came in contact with and monitor those people for symptoms over the next 21
there is no actual treatment for Ebola, what can be done to help patients? Van
Herp says that placing them in isolation actually gives them a slightly better
chance of surviving because doctors can treat some of the symptoms. Or, since
Ebola is extremely painful, they can give patients medication “to ease their
suffering.” Van Herp says that the medication also allows patients to die “with
The epidemiologist says more research
will be done next to find the source of the initial infection. In the past in
Kaluamba, the suspected source of Ebola was a dead animal or bat found in the