Background The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) struggled to end the tenth outbreak of Ebola virus disease (Ebola), which appeared in North Kivu in 2018. It was reported that rumors were hampering the response effort. We sought to identify any rumors that could have influenced outbreak containment and affected prevention in unaffected areas of DR Congo. Methods We conducted a qualitative study in DR Congo over a period of 2 months (from August 1 to September 30, 2019) using in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs). The participants were recruited from five regional blocks using purposeful sampling. Both areas currently undergoing outbreaks and presently unaffected areas were included. We collected participants' opinions, views, and beliefs about the Ebola virus. The IDIs (n = 60) were performed with key influencers (schoolteachers, religious and political leaders/analysts, and Ebola-frontline workers), following a semi-structured interview guide. FGDs (n = 10) were conducted with community members. Interviews were recorded with a digital voice recorder and simultaneous note-taking. Participant responses were categorized in terms of their themes and subthemes. Results We identified 3 high-level themes and 15 subthemes (given here in parentheses): (1) inadequate knowledge of the origin or cause of Ebola (belief in a metaphysical origin, insufficient awareness of Ebola transmission via an infected corpse, interpretation of disease as God's punishment, belief in nosocomial Ebola, poor hygiene, and bathing in the Congo River). Ebola was interpreted as (2) a plot by multinational corporations (fears of genocide, Ebola understood as a biological weapon, concerns over organ trafficking, and Ebola was taken to be the result of business actions). Finally Ebola was rumored to be subject to (3) politicization (political authorities seen as ambivalent, exclusion of some community leaders from response efforts, distrust of political authorities, and distrust in the healthcare system). Conclusions Due to the skepticism against Ebola countermeasures, it is critical to understand widespread beliefs about the disease to implement actions that will be effective, including integrating response with the unmet needs of the population.
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