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This content is taken from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's online course, Ebola in Context: Understanding Transmission, Response and Control. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds DAVID HEYMANN: It seems that there’s been a great difficulty in helping communities understand the importance of prevention and this is for many reasons. In all outbreaks there’s been a lack of trust of government when these outbreaks occur because they’re understood by many to be caused by supernatural or mystic powers. While the world’s attention has been focused on West Africa– which is right because it’s really a terrible outbreak– there has been an outbreak in DRC that began in August of this year. And was fully contained by the National team in DRC with support from MSF and others. And in October or November the last cases occurred.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds This was an outbreak that began when a mother bought an animal in a live animal market and butchered it at home for her family. She became infected, probably, from the blood as she butchered that animal, and so did one of her children. And they were seen in the hospital. And in that hospital, eight health workers were infected. And this is usually the way in which Ebola outbreaks begin. Transmission is amplified in a hospital. And then health workers and others who get infected in a hospital environment carry it into the community. This has been shown over and over again to be the way that Ebola outbreaks begin.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds Once they begin, it’s a matter of containing the outbreak, isolating patients, tracing contacts, and making sure that communities understand transmission, and have the appropriate systems of transport for patients and bodies. The outbreak in DRC was accomplished because it’s much easier to stop outbreaks in rural areas. There’s community organisation, there are village elders, there are village chiefs, there are village governance structures which can help people gain trust in the government as they do the activities together, translating the response into a local context, the local language. And that’s what happened. In DRC there’s now a word for Ebola infected people.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds And those people are understood to be filled with evil spirits that are just waiting to get into another body should someone touch them.

Learning from other outbreaks

Welcome to the second week of the course. If you want to revisit material from week one, you can navigate through the weeks from the to do list. Click ‘To do’ and then click on ‘Week 1’.

All previous Ebola outbreaks have been controlled quickly. The standard methods of control are isolating patients, contact tracing and ensuring community understanding.

In this video, Professor David Heymann describes the separate 2014 epidemic of Ebola that occurred and was contained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an example of how Ebola outbreaks usually develop, and how they can be controlled.

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This video is from the free online course:

Ebola in Context: Understanding Transmission, Response and Control

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine