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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Healthcare Workers Are Dying of Ebola in Congo Outbreak

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

As of January 24, 2019, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo included 713 cases, with 664 confirmed and 49 probable. The outbreak, which began in August of 2018, has killed 439 people (case fatality ratio: 62%), the World Health Organization reports.

Tragically, 61 healthcare workers have been infected caring for Ebola patients during the outbreak. At least 18 healthcare workers have died. A mortality rate could not be precisely determined because the 18 deaths were drawn from a previous WHO case report of 54 healthcare workers. If none of the infected healthcare workers identified since then have died, that leaves a mortality rate of 29.5% for the total of 61 infected healthcare workers.

Though some healthcare workers were reportedly given a new Ebola vaccine when the outbreak began, the WHO reports did not include immunization data.

“Health protection and control measures such as infection prevention and control in health centers, vaccination for healthcare and other frontline workers, and safe and dignified burial practices, are being strengthened to interrupt the chains of transmission,” the WHO stated.

An American healthcare worker exposed to the Ebola virus during the ongoing outbreak in Africa was recently released from Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The unidentified worker never developed Ebola but was exposed while delivering care in the ongoing outbreak in the Congo.

The patient “completed the required 21-day monitoring period and did not develop symptoms of the disease,” Ted Cieslak, MD, infectious diseases specialist with Nebraska Medicine, said in a statement. “Because this individual was symptom free throughout the monitoring period, it was determined they did not have Ebola, and therefore, were free to depart our facility and return home.”

This healthcare worker arrived for monitoring at the medical center on Dec. 29, 2018. The patient was carefully isolated and monitored in an area of the facility not accessible to the public or other patients. If the patient developed Ebola, the plan was to transfer care to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, where three healthcare workers were treated during the 2014 outbreak in West Africa.

For more on this story, see the March 2019 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.