ebola africa liberia

Liberian nurses carrying the body of an Ebola victim

EPA

Yesterday (10/15), World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called an Emergency Committee meeting on the Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has already claimed around 130 lives, according to the UN.

The WHO said they assessed the national and regional risk of the current Ebola outbreak in the Congo as “very high,” although the global risk remains low and, so far, the UN’s health watchdog has not called for any trade or travel restrictions to be imposed.



During the Emergency Committee meeting, held today (10/16) at WHO headquarters in Geneva, the expert group decided that the outbreak does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern, although “response activities need to be intensified and ongoing vigilance is critical.”

This outbreak is the tenth one to hit the Congo over the last four decades, which was declared on Aug. 1, in the North Kivu Province. The agency identified that 39 new confirmed cases were reported between Oct. 1-11, 32 of which are from the city of Beni.

The DRC Ministry of Health, WHO and other partners have been responding to the outbreak with teams on the ground, but WHO has warned that continuing insecurity severely affects both civilians and frontline workers, forcing the suspension of the response for several days in late September, and raising the risk that the virus will continue to spread.

More than 20 civilians in Beni were killed in the incident that provoked the suspension, which came on the heels of multiple attacks by armed militias in previous weeks.

“To warrant being declared a global emergency, an outbreak must be “an extraordinary event” that might cross borders, requiring a coordinated response,” the AP reported. “WHO has previously made such pronouncements for epidemics including Zika in the Americas in 2016, Ebola in West Africa in 2014 and the swine flu pandemic in 2009.”

Oly Ilunga, Congo’s health minister, told The Associated Press that the country welcomed WHO’s decision, stating, “We are very satisfied with this news.”

He told the BBC ahead of the meeting that his country didn’t want the declaration, saying that “I think the situation is quite under control.”

In 2014, Ebola exploded over west African countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone which resulted in more than 11,000 deaths between then and 2016, according to the CDC. Ebola is a contagious virus that causes severe bleeding and organ failure that can lead to death.

“If there is insecurity in the region and if the community stops us from implementing our control activities, then our hands are tied,” Dr. Michelle Gayer, senior director of emergency health at the International Rescue Committee said.

“Outbreaks are very hard to predict, but I have a feeling we’re looking at another six months.”

 





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