January 07, 2019
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SHEA calls for renewed multi-country response to Ebola outbreak in DRC

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Hilary Babcock, MD, MPH
Hilary Babcock

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has called for a renewed coordinated multi-country response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The statement followed an announcement that a health care worker from the United States was evacuated to a hospital in Nebraska after possibly being exposed to Ebola on the ground in the DRC. The U.S. evacuated CDC staff from the outbreak zone months ago over security fears.

“Appropriate U.S. investments in infectious diseases preparedness and response help keep Americans safe,” SHEA president Hilary Babcock, MD, MPH, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a news release. “There is an ongoing need for support to further the efforts in the Congo, as well as domestic preparedness to ensure readiness nationally. U.S. hospitals are well-situated to respond to infectious outbreaks, but ongoing funding and attention are required to maintain the training required for readiness.”

SHEA said the impact of resources provided by governments and non-governmental organizations can be maximized by focusing on prevention, treatment and containment at the epicenter of the outbreak.

It noted that Nebraska Medical Center, where the U.S. health care worker is being monitored, has a dedicated biocontainment unit with specially trained health care personnel to treat patients with highly infectious diseases. It is one of only a few such units in the U.S. The hospital has said the unit will be activated if the person develops symptoms of Ebola.

“We have complete confidence in the personnel and resources available at the Nebraska Medical Center,” Babcock said in the release. “Their preparedness and readiness to manage cases like this is well established.”

As of Jan. 6, the DRC health ministry reported that there have been 623 cases of Ebola infection (575 confirmed, 48 probable), including 347 deaths, since the beginning of the outbreak. – by Bruce Thiel