Workshop: Awake Awareness: An Introduction for Health and Environmental Workers on the One Health approach and its use to reinforce control of the current Ebola outbreak

Date: February 28, 2019

Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Participants: 8 Veterinarians, 3 Public Health Experts, 60 Laboratory Technicians

On February 28, Gorilla Doctors convened a one-day workshop as part of our USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project work to address the ongoing threat of the Ebola virus outbreak in the North Kivu Province of DRC to both people and gorillas. Since the outbreak began in August 2018, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) report a total of 885 cases with 555 deaths as of February 27, 2019. Patient treatment and widespread administration of thousands of vaccines have been courageous efforts on behalf of hundreds of health care workers, but have faced numerous challenges including ongoing civil war and tension surrounding a national presidential election.

One of the greatest threats to gorillas is disease transmission from humans and as the Ebola virus moves ever closer to Virunga National Park borders, we worry about the risk that gorillas might get exposed to the virus. As part of our ‘One Health’ approach to conservation, Gorilla Doctors has been actively engaged in the multi-sectoral response to this outbreak, despite limitations to our movement resulting from the park closure last August (read our blog post about the park closure and its impact on our work). A One Health approach understands that the health of people, wildlife and environment are inextricably linked. So, in order to promote the wellness of gorillas, we must also account for and advance the health of people and the environment upon which both gorillas and people depend.

To that end, the Gorilla Doctors team brought together a group of frontline workers to share best practice in veterinary medicine and its significant contribution to disease monitoring and control using a One Health approach with a focus on the current Ebola outbreak.

Given that twelve health care workers have died while fighting the outbreak (9% of total deaths in the North Kivu region), the goals of the workshop and topics presented included:

1. Goal: Introduction & Overview of One Health Approach Presenter: Dr. Eddy Kambale Syaluha, PREDICT eastern DRC Country Coordinator and Head Veterinarian, Gorilla Doctors

2. Goal: Understanding the History and Evolution of Ebolavirus Presenter: Dr. Martin Kabuyaya, Field Veterinarian, Gorilla Doctors

3. Goal: Teaching Biosecurity & Best Practices in the Laboratory Presenter: Jean-Paul Lukusa, MPH, Employee Health Program Manager, Gorilla Doctors

4. Goal: Diagnosing Ebola Disease and Use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) Presenter: Emil Milonde Muhindo, Lab Technician, Ebola Response Team, Government of DR Congo

The result of this first workshop was a greater understanding of the work of veterinarians in general and Gorilla Doctors specifically, in research, monitoring and surveillance of disease and emerging threats through a One Health approach. Gorilla Doctors plans to repeat this workshop with local universities and key stakeholders throughout the region, as well as create materials in French to be distributed to local communities in support of our mission to conserve wild mountain and Grauer’s (eastern lowland) gorillas using a One Health approach.