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Eileen Farnon and Amber Kunkel in the OITF office at the Institut Pasteur.

Ebola has battered the Democratic Republic of the Congo for many months, from the outbreak that ended in July 2018 to the epidemic currently raging. These are reminders that there is progress to be made in terms of controlling and understanding this deadly infectious disease. In 2018, during the epidemic in the north west of the country, Dr. Amber Kunkel, a scientist from the Institut Pasteur in Paris, went in situ to lend her epidemiological expertise to heightened surveillance efforts led by the WHO.

Dr. Kunkel, a post-doctoral fellow and a key member of the Pasteur Outbreak Investigation Task Force (OITF) left for the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 5, 2018 in response to the WHO’s call for international help. “We offered epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and anthropologists to deploy through WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) within days after they released a Request for Assistance,” explains Dr. Eileen Farnon, head of the OITF, a program that has been coordinating outbreak responses by scientists across the Institut Pasteur International Network since 2015. WHO gave the green light to Dr. Kunkel’s mission, “so she could provide her expertise to the final stage of the response.”

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The Pasteur OITF is able now to train additional epidemiologists, laboratorians, and other specialists throughout the Institut Pasteur International Network for international outbreak responses thanks to French National Research Agency funding through the INCEPTION Program awarded to the OITF in 2018.