Lessons Learned from Reinforcing Epidemiologic Surveillance During the 2017 Ebola Outbreak in the Likati District, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Health Secur. 2020 Jan;18(S1):S81-S91. doi: 10.1089/hs.2019.0065.


On May 12, 2017, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) publicly declared an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Likati District of the Bas-Uélé Province, 46 days after the index case became symptomatic. The delayed EVD case detection and reporting highlights the importance of establishing real-time surveillance, consistent with the Global Health Security Agenda. We describe lessons learned from implementing improved EVD case detection and reporting strategies at the outbreak epicenter and make recommendations for future response efforts. The strategies included daily coordination meetings to enhance effective and efficient outbreak response activities, assessment and adaptation of case definitions and reporting tools, establishment of a community alert system using context-appropriate technology, training facility and community health workers on adapted case definitions and reporting procedures, development of context-specific plans for outbreak data management, and strengthened operational support for communications and information-sharing networks. Post-outbreak, surveillance officials should preemptively plan for the next outbreak by developing emergency response plans, evaluating the case definitions and reporting tools used, retraining on revised case definitions, and developing responsive strategies for overcoming telecommunications and technology challenges. The ongoing EVD outbreak in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of DRC, currently the second largest EVD outbreak in history, demonstrates that documentation of successful context-specific strategies and tools are needed to combat the next outbreak. The lessons learned from the rapid containment of the EVD outbreak in Likati can be applied to the DRC and other rural low-resource settings to ensure readiness for future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo; Ebola virus disease; Epidemic management/response; Infectious diseases; Public health preparedness/response; Surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Workers / education
  • Data Management / methods
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Ebolavirus
  • Epidemiological Monitoring*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / classification
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods