In May, health officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stirred alarm when they confirmed that an Ebola outbreak had spread from the countryside to a heavily populated port city. But one month later, the World Health Organization is cautiously optimistic: “Slightly over a month into the response, further spread of [Ebola Virus Disease] has largely been contained,” WHO announced on June 20.
That’s largely thanks to the multi-pronged approach health officials in the port city of Mbandaka took to stop the disease, before it could spread to other cities and countries.
A coalition of NGOs set up quarantines throughout Mbandaka, taught preventative measures, and engaged in a selective vaccination campaign.
Dr. Alhassane Touré, one of the health officials behind the vaccination drive, explained how his team targeted people who shared social circles with known and suspected Ebola victims. They used an “investigational vaccine” that worked to curb the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa.
“The objective is to contain the chain of transmission — so we privilege high risk contact,” said Touré. “The vaccine doesn’t cure, it prevents.”
Besides the selective vaccinations, other parts of the containment strategy included performing ‘secured burials’ of Ebola victims, educating moto-taxi drivers how to safely transport passengers, and installing hand-wash stations at some of the busiest bushmeat markets throughout town.
For now, the comprehensive approach appears to have paid off. But while the WHO is optimistic, they know they can’t rest until the disease has been completely contained.