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Ebola Outbreak: UK Public Health Rapid Support Team deploying to DRC

On 8 May 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Government declared a new outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)—the country’s ninth outbreak.
Caption: Ebola virus. Credit: CDC

The UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST) is deploying to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help control the outbreak. UK-PHRST is jointly run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Public Health England, and funded by the UK Government. The three UK-PHRST team members deploying include two experts in tracking outbreaks, LSHTM’s Hilary Bower and Olivier le Polain from Public Health England, and data scientist Patrick Keating from LSHTM.

The team is expected to remain in the DRC for around six weeks, during which time they will help track the spread of the outbreak, and will also support in establishing robust data systems that will help align crucial information gathering. The UK-PHRST also has expertise in various other key areas for Ebola response, such as laboratory diagnostics, that can be deployed should they be needed. 

UK-PHRST has the capability to rapidly deploy public health experts at 48 hours’ notice in order to strengthen the in-country response, curtail the spread of disease, and ultimately save lives.

The deployment is in response to a call from the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). The GOARN team, which the members of the UK-PHRST will be part of, is working closely with the Government of the DRC to rapidly scale up its operations in response to the current outbreak.

The public health risk to the UK regarding the current Ebola outbreak is very low.  

As the UK-PHRST’s deployment progresses, it will continue to provide support and share expertise with partners in DRC to strengthen the health system beyond the immediate response.

Hilary Bower, Assistant Professor UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, said: “DRC has considerable expertise when it comes to Ebola and has successfully battled the virus many times. We are pleased to be able to offer additional hands, minds and technical support, at a critical time for controlling the outbreak.” 

Professor Daniel Bausch, Director of the UK-PHRST said: “Unfortunately Ebola has again re-emerged in the DRC. We are all aware of the potential devastation Ebola can cause, so it’s essential that we respond rapidly to stop the outbreak in its tracks.

“Fortunately, we are seeing a rapid response both in the DRC and from international partners, and the UK-PHRST is proud to be part of that, providing specialist support that can benefit the country, not only for this outbreak, but for the long-term.”

The UK-PHRST, funded by the UK Government, is a partnership between Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The team also works with the University of Oxford and King’s College London as academic partners. It continually monitors infectious diseases and other hazards globally, identifying situations where the deployment of specialist expertise could prevent these threats from turning into a global outbreak.