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Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Updated: October 15, 2014

The purpose of this alert is to notify travelers that a small number of Ebola cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and to inform travelers of actions they can take to reduce their risk of getting the disease.

CDC recommends that travelers to DRC protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola. Although cases have been reported only in the Equateur Province, all travelers to DRC should be alert for reports of possible further spread within the country.

What is the current situation?

According to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Health, cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Lokolia, Boende, and Watshikengo. The outbreak has been traced to a single patient who became infected after preparing bushmeat. This outbreak is not related to the ongoing Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The DRC Minister of Health announced a series of preventive measures taken to stop the spread of the outbreak, including contact tracing and follow-up, treatment of patients, and infection prevention and control measures. It is not yet known if these actions will be successful.

CDC recommends that travelers to DRC, especially people going to Equateur Province, protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease. The disease is caused by infection with one of the ebolaviruses (Ebola, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Taï Forest virus). It is spread by direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with a sick person’s blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen). It is also spread by direct contact with objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with the infected body fluids or infected animals.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Who is at risk?

Travelers could be infected if they come into contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is sick or has died from Ebola. People also can become sick with Ebola if they come into contact with infected wildlife or raw or undercooked meat (bushmeat) from an infected animal. Health care workers and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids.

What can travelers do to prevent Ebola?

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, and many people who get the disease die. It is important to take steps to prevent Ebola.

If you are traveling to DRC, please make sure to do the following:

  • Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals and with raw or undercooked meat (bushmeat).
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The US Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities that are suitable for your needs. The US Embassy in Kinshasa can be reached at +(081) 556-0151.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (100.4°F / 38°C or higher) or other symptoms such as severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
    • Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor; avoid public transportation. Do not travel anywhere except to the doctor’s office or hospital.

After Your Return to the United States

If you were exposed to Ebola during your trip, call your doctor even if you do not have symptoms. Your doctor should evaluate your exposure level and symptoms if you have them and consult with public health authorities to determine whether actions, such as medical evaluation and testing for Ebola, monitoring, or travel restrictions are needed.

Pay attention to your health after you return, even if you were not exposed to Ebola during your trip.

  • Monitor your health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak.
    • Take your temperature every morning and evening.
    • Watch for other Ebola symptoms: severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.
    • If your temperature is 100.4°F (38°C) or higher or you have any other Ebola symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
      • Tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the doctor’s office or hospital. Advance notice will help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the doctor’s office or hospital.
      • Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor; avoid public transportation.
      • Do not travel anywhere except to the doctor’s office or hospital.
  • During the time that you are monitoring your health, you can continue your normal activities, including work. If you get symptoms of Ebola, it is important to stay apart from other people and to call your doctor right away.

Special Recommendation for Health Care Workers

If you will be working in a health care setting while in DRC, you should be prepared to care for patients in a region where resources are limited and the health care system is strained. Refer to the World Health Organization’s Infection prevention and control guidance for care of patients in health-care settings, with focus on Ebola document, even if you do not plan to work directly with Ebola patients.

Although the following is not a full list, health care workers who may be exposed to people with Ebola should be sure to follow these steps:

  • Wear the right protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns, and eye protection when in patient care areas.
  • Use proper infection prevention and control measures.
    • Follow cleaning and disinfection protocols for reusable medical equipment, practice proper disposal of needles and other disposable equipment, and practice proper disposal of patient excretions.
    • Wash your hands often, using soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available) to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
    • Do not reuse gloves, Dispose of gloves according to recommended infection control precautions. Wash your hands after disposing of the gloves.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of Ebola and develop a triage system so Ebola patients can be identified and properly handled.
  • Avoid direct contact, without recommended personal protective equipment, with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola.
  • Immediately notify your organization and the US embassy or consulate in DRC if you think you have been exposed to someone with Ebola but were not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.

Traveler Information

Clinician Information

Information for Airline Personnel

 

 
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