Ebola Outbreak: DRC

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Secretary of State for International Development 4:19 pm, 20th May 2019

There are two main lessons from Sierra Leone. The first is communication—in particular, making sure that anybody who is sick comes forward to report it and that they report their contacts honestly. We had a situation recently in eastern DRC where a baby was reported, but nobody traced the fact that the grandmother of the baby had actually had the disease. Contact tracing and reporting is essential. The second relates to safe burial practices and understanding very clearly the risks involved.

In terms of health workers, the big change from Sierra Leone is the vaccine. One of the great achievements that this Department has played a major role in is the final development of an Ebola vaccine, which, so far, has been very effective—over 90% effective. We are now vaccinating all health workers in the area as a matter of course, so that anyone who is in contact with a patient is vaccinated. That should make a huge difference to the transmission of the disease, because in Sierra Leone and Liberia it moved through health workers. The problem at the moment is traditional health workers, who are reluctant to come forward.