Ebola in DRC still not global emergency — World Health Organization experts

  • Ebola in DRC still not global emergency — World Health Organization experts

Ebola in DRC still not global emergency — World Health Organization experts

A World Health Organization emergency committee has opted not to designate an eight-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an emergency of worldwide concern, its chairman said on Friday, but it urged neighbouring countries to increase their preparedness.

But acknowledging the potential risk that the disease may spread to neighbouring countries, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed on behalf of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, "deep concern" over a recent surge in the transmission of the virus in specific areas, namely North Kivu and Ituri provinces, both of which are heavily populated by armed groups.

The Emergency Committee recommended that cross-border collaboration be strengthened, including through the timely sharing of Ebola data and alerts; community engagement, and awareness raising.

"Although there was great concern about some rising numbers in some regions, the outbreak has not spread internationally", said committee chief Robert Steffen on Friday.

They include 20 new cases reported by the health ministry on Thursday, another one-day record after 18 on Wednesday.

The WHO Secretariat gave an update on the current situation and provided detail of the response to the current Ebola outbreak and preparedness activities in neighbouring countries.

To be designated a public health emergency of worldwide concern, a situation must be "serious, unusual or unexpected", threaten to infect other countries and require "immediate global action".

Director-General Teodros Ghebreyesus said he accepted the panel's recommendation, though the decision is likely to spark debate, since declaring a global emergency would elevate the issue and nearly certainly bring new resources and attention to the ongoing crisis. World Health Organization has noted it is woefully short of the $148 million it says is needed to fight Ebola for the next six months. So far, only 11.1 million Swiss francs have been received.

The outbreak is occurring close to the borders of Uganda and Rwanda, with South Sudan not far away.

WHO's independent Emergency Committee is expected to announce their decision on whether the epidemic should be considered a global health emergency today at a press conference.

Ron Klain, the United States Ebola response coordinator during the West African outbreak, took to Twitter to criticize the WHO.

This outbreak has been like no other.

"Bigger is not necessarily better", she said and called for a new approach, saying that after nine months of the same strategy "the epidemic is definitely not under control".

"Choices must be given back to patients and their families on how to manage the disease-for example, by allowing people to seek healthcare in their local centers rather than in an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC)".

Ebola cases have spiked in recent weeks and officials are increasingly losing track of where the virus is spreading.

WHO's Dr. Michael Ryan, who heads the emergencies program, disputed that assessment, insisting that officials are eventually able to connect most Ebola cases to a previous patient after an arduous forensic process.

This is the second time the emergency committee has met to discuss the ongoing Ebola outbreak, and the second time they have ruled that the situation is very worrying but not a worldwide emergency.