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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 secondsDAVID HEYMANN: It's likely that, when the outbreak was first identified, back in March of 2014, if there had been a rapid and robust response, the outbreak could've been stopped using the three basic strategies that stop outbreaks. And those are patient isolation, contact tracing, and community understanding.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsMATTHIAS BORCHERT: In the earlier outbreaks, the key measures were isolation of patients. So you had to find the cases in the community by investigating rumours, information which came in from community members, from health facilities in the periphery. The surveillance team would go out and see whether that individual corresponded to the case definition. If so, the individual would be taken to the Ebola treatment centre and being assessed. And if the doctor there confirmed that the suspicion is really high, the patient would be isolated. And at the same time, a list of contacts of this patient would be drawn up. The contacts would be seen for three weeks on a daily basis, find out whether they fall ill.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsIf they do, they will also be assessed and isolated. If they stay healthy, they've been lucky. Isolation means that the patient is prevented from transmitting the disease to other family and community members. Staff is protected against transmission of the virus from patient to staff. And should the patient die, not survive his disease, the burial also needs to be done under safe conditions and any unprotected contact with the dead body needed to be prevented. So that's the standard way of controlling Ebola or Marburg outbreaks the same thing. And that's how it was always done, and that's what was always successful.

How Ebola is usually controlled

The three basic strategies to control an Ebola outbreak are patient isolation, contact tracing, and community understanding.

In this brief introduction Professor David Heymann and Dr Matthias Borchert, who have both worked in many Ebola outbreaks, outline how Ebola can be stopped using the three strategies:

  • Patient identification and isolation, and protection of health workers by infection control

  • Contact tracing and fever surveillance with rapid diagnosis and isolation

  • Community understanding, with safe patient and body transport systems, safe burial and environmental decontamination.

All of these aspects are explored during the course.

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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