Are you travelling anywhere in Africa for an Africa safari? Planning a Uganda safari? a Rwanda safari? a Congo safari or just a tour to another country in Africa. If you do travel, be careful about the places you go to and the people you meet on your Africa tour. We are saying this because there have occurred several outbreaks of ebola cases. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international health emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after an outbreak of Ebola. Many professional health workers on the frontlines of the battle against Ebola value time and to them it means everything because Ebola is the second-deadliest Ebola epidemic in history, it has killed more than 1,600 people so far and the numbers are rising.
Haitian doctor Marie Roseline Darnycka Belizaire is helping lead the World Health Organization’s efforts to tackle the disease in Congo despite the additional challenges people may encounter during their Congo tour including armed conflict, tough terrain and widespread fear and suspicion. Despite the emergency ebola outbreak, Congo is safe for Congo safaris including the famous which are the Congo gorilla trekking tours in Virunga National Park for travellers interested in Mountain gorilla trekking safaris Congo and Kahuzi Biega National Park Congo for lowland gorilla trekking tours Congo.
Doctor Marie Roseline say this about the process of trying to contain Ebola that other people and countries should carry on;
Take the first case very serious
She stresses that people ought to know that one case of Ebola is an epidemic. When a particular individual is suspected to have a virus, samples must be taken quickly to check and confirm if this person is infected. Ebola symptoms are very, very similar to lots of other diseases, like malaria. Sometimes it begins with abdominal aches, headache, sore throats, or even fevers. After about two days, there will more of these symptoms and others be exposed. For example, the patient may develop diarrhoea or have a higher fever. After about five to seven days, this patient begins to get haemorrhagic symptoms. When we get into the last stages of symptoms, we have very pronounced asthenia, when the person becomes very weak.
Ebola patients cannot easily be distinguished from others because they look like any person who is sick. Even when you are accustomed to seeing people with Ebola, you can only distinguish an Ebola sufferer with the most severe symptoms. They look very ill with severe pain in the body. To distinguish a case of Ebola, samples have to be made. When a case is suspected, only the laboratory can say it is or it is not. Throughout this time, the patient is given psychological support until the results are back.
It is important that cases are taken seriously because the disease is deadly and it can kill several family members at the same time.
Find a nice way of informing the patient about the diagnosis
If the patient’s samples are found positive, the doctors get a response plan and start the action. They find sweet words of telling the patient so they don’t get so worried. “Ebola is not going to kill you spontaneously, there is time to go for help. If you get to a treatment centre in the first two days of symptoms, you have a 95% chance of being healed. But if you go 10 days after symptoms begin, you have a 95% chance of dying.
After the patient is informed of a positive result, the team will go to the family to tell them and offer psychological support.
When the patient is taken to the Ebola centre for treatment, the doctors make sure that every treatment is available to the patient. They make some laboratory analyses to see if the kidneys and the heart are ok as well as other biological functions and once they establish this, the committee dealing with the treatment meet and decide on the best option available for this patient.
Map the areas this person has been in
Once the psychological team finishes up with the family that’s if they have accepted the results and what it means, the ebola team on ground investigates and does the mapping. Mapping helps them find out the people this person has been with for the past 21 days so they save others who may have acquired the disease too.
“If someone has been in a church, we have to go to the church and try to find all the people that have been around this person. If this person went to prayer, then the pastor may have put his hand under the person. So then we have to find all the people that have been in the same room praying as this person.” Reported one of the investigators. How many people are affected completely depends on the movements of this person.
Sometimes we find that families are the main contacts, but we find also friends who are visiting, and in the community, we find neighbours who have been visiting after hearing that this person has been sick in their house. When the person has been in hospital, this means all the co-patients are also contacts, workers in this hospital who have been dealing with the person are also contacts and people who have been visiting patients in the same room as the confirmed case are also contacts. You can understand how difficult it is after listing all those contacts to identify them and find them.
We have had a case that generated 356 contacts because he was a singer. It all depends on the mapping of the person. When we have identified each direct contact in case one by one, we follow all of them for 21 days. While we are monitoring them, we also offer them vaccinations.
Vaccinate all the contacts that the ebola patient has been with
The contact persons that this patient has been with must be offered the vaccine, but the vaccine is not mandatory. Before offering them the vaccine, they are proposed to the purpose why it would be good for them to take it and what will happen to them once they take it or not take it because there are some symptoms they can have afterwards. After all this, they decide if they want it or not. When they decide not to take the vaccine, we try to convince them. But in the end, it is a personal decision.
There are those that have refused because they have a religion that doesn’t want them to take vaccines and there are people who refuse just because they don’t believe in Ebola. Some people refuse because they think they are protected against all the bad things in the world. Yet the vaccine has been invaluable for those who want to take it.
There must be strong cross-border coordination among countries
It is also wise that neighbouring countries keep good relationships. When someone; a contact is displaced to another place, the country is contacted there and then. For example, when they get to know that contact has crossed to Uganda, they inform it and the contact quickly so they return for vaccination.
So far, the recommendation of WHO is not to close the borders. We should reinforce checks on the borders, screenings at the point of entry so people not concerned continue with their work. At the points of entry, if someone is sick and trying to get to another country, you can detect them there.
The epidemic is finally over
For the World Health Organization to declare that an epidemic is over, they have to have 42 days without any Ebola cases because 42 days is the double incubation period. After the Ebola is declared finished, there is a team that starts another surveillance phase of about 90 days. They actively search the community to find any cases that have been hiding somehow. It is also this time that they help local health systems to become more reliable.