Experiences from countries outside of West Africa with the Ebola outbreak and lessons learnt for preparedness
Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 44, 05 November 2015
Table of Contents
We describe the inquiries regarding Ebola virus disease (EVD) received by the Department of Public Health Alerts of the Community of Madrid between April and December 2014. A total of 242 inquiries were received. Consultations were initiated most frequently by hospital clinicians (59 inquiries, 24%), private citizens (57 inquiries, 24%) and primary care physicians (53 inquiries, 22%). The most frequent topic of inquiry was possible EVD in a patient (215 inquiries, 89%). Among these, 31 persons (14%) presented both EVD-compatible symptoms and epidemiological risk factors, and 11 persons (5%) fulfilled the criteria for a person under investigation. Recent travel abroad was reported in 96 persons (45%), but only 32 (15%) had travelled to an EVD-affected area. Two high-risk and one low-risk contact were identified through these inquiries. Low specificity of the EVD symptoms led to many difficulties in protocol application. Ineffective communication with healthcare professionals and unfamiliarity with the EVD protocols caused many case classification errors. A rapid consultation service by telephone is essential for providing qualified advice during emergencies. Our experience may help other countries dimension their activities and resources for managing similar exceptional outbreaks in the future.
In the absence of a vaccine or specific treatments for Ebola virus disease (EVD), early identification of cases is crucial for the control of EVD epidemics. We evaluated a new extraction kit (SpeedXtract (SE), Qiagen) on sera and swabs in combination with an improved diagnostic reverse transcription recombinase polymerase amplification assay for the detection of Ebola virus (EBOV-RT-RPA). The performance of combined extraction and detection was best for swabs. Sensitivity and specificity of the combined SE and EBOV-RT-RPA were tested in a mobile laboratory consisting of a mobile glovebox and a Diagnostics-in-a-Suitcase powered by a battery and solar panel, deployed to Matoto Conakry, Guinea as part of the reinforced surveillance strategy in April 2015 to reach the goal of zero cases. The EBOV-RT-RPA was evaluated in comparison to two real-time PCR assays. Of 928 post-mortem swabs, 120 tested positive, and the combined SE and EBOV-RT-RPA yielded a sensitivity and specificity of 100% in reference to one real-time RT-PCR assay. Another widely used real-time RT-PCR was much less sensitive than expected. Results were provided very fast within 30 to 60 min, and the field deployment of the mobile laboratory helped improve burial management and community engagement.
During the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, preventing exportation of the disease posed many challenges for economically more developed countries. In Israel, although the risk of importing single cases was assumed to be low, the implications of local transmission were great. This article describes the EVD preparedness plan of the Israeli Ministry of Health. Key elements were a sensitive case definition, designation of a single treatment centre for suspected and confirmed cases, construction of a mobile unit using customised negative-pressure tents and a vigorous national training programme. There were no patients with EVD in Israel, but a few suspected cases were assessed. The Israeli plan may provide a template for emergency infectious disease response in other geographically small countries.
The largest outbreak of Ebola virus disease occurred in West Africa in 2014 and resulted in unprecedented transmission even in distant countries. In Japan, only nine individuals were screened for Ebola and there was no confirmed case. However, the government promoted the reinforcement of response measures and interagency collaboration, with training and simulation exercises conducted country-wide. The legacies included: publication of a communication policy on case disclosure, a protocol for collaboration between public health and other agencies, and establishing an expert committee to assemble the limited available expertise. There were challenges in taking proportionate and flexible measures in the management of people identified to be at high risk at entry points to Japan, in the decentralised medical response strategy, and in the medical countermeasures preparedness. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa provided a crucial opportunity to reveal the challenges and improve the preparedness for rare but high impact emerging diseases that are prone to be neglected. Efforts to uphold the lessons learnt and maintain public health preparedness should help prepare for future emerging diseases, including bioterrorist acts and pandemics.
We established a modular, rapidly deployable laboratory system that provides diagnostic support in resource-limited, remote areas. Developed as a quick response asset to unusual outbreaks of infectious diseases worldwide, several of these laboratories have been used as part of the World Health Organization response to the Ebola virus outbreaks by teams of the ‘European Mobile Lab’ project in West Africa since March 2014. Within three days from deployment, the first European mobile laboratory became operational at the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Guéckédou, southern Guinea. Deployment in close proximity to the ETU decreased the turnaround time to an average of 4 h instead of several days in many cases. Between March 2014 and May 2015, more than 5,800 samples were tested in this field laboratory. Further EMLab units were deployed to Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the following months of the Ebola outbreak. The technical concept of the EMLab units served as a blueprint for other mobile Ebola laboratories which have been set up in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and other countries in West Africa. Here, we describe design, capabilities and utility of this deployable laboratory system for use in response to disease outbreaks, epidemiological surveillance and patient management.
Eurosurveillance Edition: 05 November 2015
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