30 December 2008

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

On 25 December 2008, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Mweka District, Kasai Occidental province [1]. As of 26 December, 34 suspected cases, including nine deaths had been reported. Ebola haemorrhagic fever has been laboratory confirmed in two patients.

The World Health Organization is supporting the Ministry of Health and response teams have been deployed. Additional staff, outbreak response equipment and supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), are being sent to the area. An enhanced team of national and international experts is being mobilised to implement control strategies.

Advice for travellers

Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe disease caused by a virus of the Filoviridae family. Following an incubation period of around four to ten days (range: two to 21 days) the disease presents with the sudden onset of fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, and weakness. As the infection progresses, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, shortness of breath, confusion, and haemorrhage can occur. This can lead to multi-organ failure, shock, and death.

The likelihood that a traveller will contract Ebola is low unless there has been direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, or with objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with body fluids.

Travellers should avoid all contact with infected patients. Those who are providing medical care or are involved in the evaluation of an outbreak should observe strict barrier protection measures. Travellers who have been potentially exposed to Ebola virus should seek medical attention immediately if they experience any symptoms consistent with Ebola within the first 21 days of return to the UK.

United Kingdom guidance on the management and control of viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHF) has been written by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens.

Guidance for healthcare workers who will be working with VHF patients in African healthcare settings, has been written by the CDC in conjunction with WHO.


1. World Health Organization. Ebola haemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 26 December 2008. Accessed 29 December 2008. Available at:


Health Protection Agency. Viral Haemorrhagic Fever.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States. Ebola hemorrhagic fever.  

World Health Organization. Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever.