Now that the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing the second major Ebola outbreak this year, aid workers have tried to curb the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, scientists are testing the effectiveness of experimental vaccines in the field.
In addition to these efforts, researchers in the DRC collect data that will improve and prevent the way we respond to future Ebola outbreaks and other infectious diseases. 19659003] Their work includes building a comprehensive picture of how illnesses such as Ebola spread by tracking cases and mapping where people live, work and find health care.
Over time, a more advanced understanding of the environments that spread infectious diseases will lead to faster, more effective treatment.
Long-term contractual tensions
Anne Rimoin is associate professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health. She is also director of the UCLA-DRC health research and training program, an effort in Kinshasa, Congo, which has been under way for 16 years.
Rimoin returned to the United States of the fieldwork in the DRC last month. She told VOA that her group is collecting data that will benefit not only Ebola but also emerging infectious diseases.
"In an outbreak you have to understand where people are and what their travel patterns are, where they go, where they work, where their fields are," Rimoin said. "If you do not know where things are, it is very difficult to define a response. "
The collection of this kind of data is especially important in a country like Congo, where small, unadapted villages control large forests and the infrastructure is not largely developed.  "The DRC is a very large country," said Rimoin. "So far no accurate, accurate maps of the DRC have been available."
High-tech and local knowledge
Rimoin & # 39; s group partners with ve various organizations, including the DRC's Health Department, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Rimoin said that the health research and training program in Kinshasa uses a mix of high technology. technical solutions and local knowledge. The group analyzes satellite imagery to understand the terrain and population centers in the DRC. But they also rely on insights from residents to put together a more accurate and complete dataset.
With these data collection tools, Rimoin's team can identify not only boundaries but also human activities such as traffic flows and health centers.
maps important sights, such as roads, rivers and health centers. They also monitor exposure to healthcare workers and people who have been vaccinated to compare them with other populations, providing a more complete picture of how drugs work.
"It's important that data is available so that you can look for trends between outbreaks and try to find similarities and try to quickly identify similarities between outbreaks," Rimoin said.
Working with local populations is crucial for the success of the project. It is these experts who know the terrain and the population, and that expertise is often invaluable, especially when confronted with residents' skepticism about the efficacy of vaccines.
By working together with local organizations and international efforts with long-term commitment for Rimoin, the Health Research and Training program is better placed to work with communities to understand their needs, concerns and beliefs.
"It is very important to work with people who are always there – not skydiving," Rimoin said.