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Agencies must win trust of locals to contain Marburg and Ebola outbreaks
Date:10/29/2007

Outbreaks of filovirus haemorrhagic fevers (FHFs) such as those caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses can only be controlled if agencies have the support and trust of local communities, according to two papers just published in the online edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases as part of a special supplement on filovirusues.

Few records exist of the experiences of outbreak control teams, and the lessons learned from previous outbreaks were not easily accessible to the initial team at Uige, Angola, when an outbreak of the Marburg virus occurred in 2005. As a consequence, a number of initial mistakes were made and protocols and strategies had to be modified as the outbreak progressed.

Members of the Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) Spain team which took part in the Uige response have written about the lessons they learned there, in the hope that those working to control future outbreaks will be able to benefit from their experiences. The two papers, produced jointly with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), look at the lessons learned in the community, and in the local hospital, where an isolation ward was set up specifically for the treatment of patients with Marburg.

While the effectiveness of treatment for FHF is limited, and the case fatality is high (50-90%) outbreak control procedures are effective at controlling its spread. The difficulty lies in securing the trust and cooperation of communities, for whom these diseases, and the equipment that surrounds their control white suits with the wearers face obscured, disinfectant spraying devices in a part of Africa where fear of poisoning is widespread are a source of great anxiety. In previous outbreaks in Gabon and Congo, community resistance had been so severe and violent that international teams had been prevented from completing their missions.

The MSF team learned the importance of incorporating local traditions into their approach, and
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Contact: Lindsay Wright
lindsay.wright@lshtm.ac.uk
020-792-72802
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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