World Health Organization committee: Congo's Ebola outbreak to worsen without stepped-up response

Maricruz Casares
Octubre 20, 2018

Sometimes violent community resistance is complicating efforts to contain Congo's latest Ebola outbreak, causing the rate of new cases to rise.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), though a deep concern posing serious challenges, has not turned into an worldwide health emergency.

After convening an expert group to assess the epidemic on Wednesday, the United Nations health agency said "response activities need to be intensified and ongoing vigilance is critical".

The WHO continues to deem the DRC outbreak a very high risk at the regional level, the agency said in a news release today.

Dr. Peter Salama, WHO's deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, tweeted this week that "over 10,000 at risk people have been identified & followed up" since the beginning of the outbreak.

The WHO convened a meeting of the Emergency Committee on Wednesday regarding the Ebola outbreak in the Central African country, concluding that a public health emergency of worldwide concern should not be declared at this time. Since 2007, when the barometer was established, the World Health Organization has only declared a PHEIC four times: for swine flu in 2009, polio and Ebola in 2014, and Zika in 2016.

However, it does not yet constitute a public health emergency of worldwide concern (PHEIC), the emergency committee said. He added, however, that if the virus infects another country, that could trigger another meeting.

The WHO has called for special attention to Beni and Butembo, two areas that have since been hit by the disease.

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Experts said such suspicion was fueling the epidemic.

The outbreak was very concerning for the region but not globally, he said, adding that no cases had yet been exported, and the global response was already underway. It said these preparedness activities were expensive and would require substantial financial support from the worldwide community. She predicted that unless the situation drastically changes, Ebola could drag into next year.

"We will not rest until the outbreak is finished".

When asked about reports that the CDC had pulled workers from the DRC, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "U.S. security guidelines are stricter".

Minister of State for Health (General Duties), Sarah Opendi revealed that Uganda is free from Ebola.

"The emergency committee had a consensus that this outbreak certainly is not an outbreak of global importance, but they are very concerned for the region", Steffen said.

The WHO also decided not to declare a PHEIC over the last Ebola outbreak, which ultimately killed 33 people in the DRC's Équateur province earlier this year, due to the quick response and deployment of an experimental vaccine.

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