Congo’s Ebola outbreak and refugee crisis create perfect storm for cross-border surge in the disease

PORTLAND, Ore. (Dec. 17, 2018) – Medical Teams International, the leading health organization providing screenings at refugee border crossings into Uganda, is preparing for Ebola to cross the border from Democratic Republic of Congo in the coming weeks.

The Ebola outbreak comes as ongoing violence pushes thousands of Congolese east toward Uganda. Rebel attacks have complicated efforts to curtail the deadly disease’s spread, leading to more than 420 confirmed cases and 225 deaths. As the outbreak continues to grow, new cases are now appearing in the large city of Butembo ahead of planned elections this month.

Medical Teams is actively monitoring the outbreak in DR Congo and preparing for the probability that cases of Ebola could cross the border. The organization has been training all staff on the protocols for spotting and reporting cases of Ebola and preventing its spread. The process is to isolate, report and refer suspected cases in coordination with the World Health Organization and Uganda’s Ministry of Health.

There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Uganda from the current outbreak through Dec. 17. Congo’s elections are scheduled for Dec. 23, however, and are expected to lead to further protests, violence and displacement. More than 100 armed groups operate in the country, particularly in the areas where reported cases of Ebola are highest.

Should Medical Teams confirm cases of Ebola crossing the border, the goal will be to isolate the cases and refer them for treatment.

At Uganda’s border crossings, Congolese refugees arriving directly from an area where there have been confirmed cases are screened and any person exhibiting symptoms of Ebola are isolated and held for observation. Suspected cases would then go to health facilities that have isolation units dedicated to Ebola and other types of hemorrhagic fevers.

Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person—physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Because every person—no matter where they are or how desperate their situation—matters.