To strengthen health practitioners’ proficiency in preventing the spread of Ebola virus disease in health facilities, the Commission for Prevention and Biosecurity of the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) launched on 5 September a guideline and training package on infection prevention and control that targets at least 3 000 nurses, doctors and other health care workers.
During the current Ebola outbreak, working in or transiting through health facilities present a high risk of exposure to the virus. With the ongoing heightened attention to equipping health facilities with Ebola-specific response units, the Government of the DRC is intent on covering all potential weak points by training staff on infection prevention, using standard guidelines recently revised by a team of technical specialists from the Health Ministry, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The ongoing tenth outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, which passed its one-year mark on 1 August, is the country’s worst. The number of confirmed and suspected cases have passed 3 000, with the number of deaths exceeding 2 000.
As of 25 August, nearly 18% of the total cases registered were hospital-acquired infections. At least 155 health care workers have been infected with the Ebola virus disease since the beginning of this tenth outbreak.
WHO is supporting the Commission for Prevention and Biosecurity in boosting infection prevention and hygiene training.
“I salute the progress being made in saving lives from Ebola virus disease,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, “But the situation remains critical, and a number of challenges remain. As part of our commitment to strengthening the health system of the DRC, we want to ensure that health facilities are not contributing to the spread of infectious diseases and this includes Ebola.”
With funding from the United States Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development and the World Bank, the training package provides a standardized approach to practices and procedures for health facilities and integrates measures related to water management, sanitation and hygiene, which are essential for preventing the spread of infectious disease.
The guidelines and training package will be rolled out over the next three months, beginning in Goma and targeting health care workers and other actors involved in primary response. This will enforce the universal application of infection prevention and control standards throughout the health care chain.
The revised guidelines will not only improve the infection prevention and control measures for Ebola but also serve as a broader health systems strengthening tool for preventing the spread of other infectious diseases within health facilities.
The training course and application of the prescribed standards will be monitored over the coming year in order to evaluate their effectiveness and possible impact on health facility-acquired Ebola virus disease.