Strategic messaging aims to combat ebola in drc fluid in ear toddler

The disease, initially transmitted to humans from wild animals such as fruit bats, monkeys and forest antelope, spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Early symptoms can include fever, sore throat, fatigue, muscle pain and headache. Symptoms can take up to 21 days to emerge.

The outbreak’s epicenter is in a remote area of northwestern DRC, in Equateur province. Several cases have been confirmed in its provincial capital, Mbandaka, where the patients had fled from the Ebola treatment center. The city has more than 1 million residents, heightening the risk of further infection.

“The hospital where it currently is located is in the middle of the city, with many people coming and going,” Kalenga said. So health officials have decided to relocate the treatment center, run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders, to a site outside the city.

That facility is expected to open later this week.

“The most important tool that we have, the only tool to tackle viruses, is information and sharing it,” Julie Hall, special adviser on health for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a video clip posted Thursday on Twitter.

It took aggressive, targeted messaging to allay fears and change behaviors, said Jennifer McQuiston, an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an expert on infectious disease. She had deployed to Sierra Leone’s capital as the Ebola caseload there “started rising dramatically” in October 2014.

An international communications group had assembled 200 critical messages,important but hard to absorb at once, McQuiston recalled in a phone interview Thursday. So, guided by data on where and how Ebola was spreading, the group “came out with an Ebola ‘big idea of the week.’”

First up: “Safe burials save lives.” McQuiston said people were urged to accept burial teams with protective gear and disinfectant to safely remove bodies, characterizing this as an honorable measure. They also were encouraged to “pledge that if you died of Ebola, you would want your loved ones to give you a safe burial.”

Another week, the message was to “seek early treatment, to deconstruct the myth that people [with Ebola] were better off at home,” McQuiston said. “Going to an Ebola treatment center gives you a much better chance of surviving, and it’s going to save your family’s lives.”

With the current DRC outbreak, health experts have rolled out an information campaign that encourages vaccinations not only for front-line health workers but also for relatives and friends of those who have contracted Ebola. The WHO said some 10,000 people should be vaccinated within the next month.

Meanwhile, Kalenga said “all the people” traveling in and out of Mbandaka were being monitored for elevated temperature that might indicate infection. In the West African outbreak that began in late 2013 and killed more than 11,000, airport monitors used non-contact thermometers.

Nigeria, too, has reactivated temperature screening at its land borders, airports and seaports. The continent’s most populous country, with 186 million residents, experienced an outbreak in July 2014 that left seven dead. The WHO pronounced it Ebola-free that October.

Handwashing stations have surfaced in public places. UNICEF has set up them up at entrances to schools, and teachers have been instructing students to forgo regular greetings of hugs or handshakes. During the West African outbreak, youngsters waved to or bumped elbows with each other.