WHO Says Ebola Outbreak Is Not An International Public Health Emergency
WHO Says Ebola Outbreak Is Not An International Public Health Emergency
READ MOREEbola is back and containing the virus will be more difficult than last time
18 June, 2019, 03:22
Uganda's health ministry says seven people who had earlier been suspected to have Ebola have been found to be negative.
A World Health Organization panel decided on Friday not to declare an worldwide emergency over Congo's Ebola outbreak despite its spread to Uganda this week, concluding such a declaration could cause too much economic harm.
While the worldwide body has declared four global health emergencies before, including the swine flu outbreak in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2014 and zika virus in 2016, this is the third time it declined to declare the Ebola outbreak in Congo as a public health emergency.
Nine more people died from their Ebola infections, two in community settings and seven in Ebola treatment centers.
The acting chair of the World Health Organization emergency committee, Preben Aavitsland, said Friday that as long as the outbreaks continue in Congo, "there will be a risk of spread to neighboring countries".
But invoking the emergency provisions will entail additional measures to manage the outbreak, including a possible call for "immediate global action", according to the United Nations health agency. The declaration typically triggers more funding, resources and political attention. "The overall risk at worldwide level remains low", it said.
"This should have been done by the health office, the district health office", said Moses Mugisa, clerk of the border town of Mpondwe-Lhubiriha, who eventually found transport for the corpse.
A Red Cross worker performs health checks at the DRC-Uganda border earlier this month.
"What the emergency committee said today was that it really came down to what they saw as the lack of benefit from the risk of overreaction".
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But the danger of it spreading into Rwanda and South Sudan is limited. Mistrust has been high in a region that had never faced Ebola before and attacks by rebel groups have undermined aid efforts. Uganda has vaccinated almost 4,700 health workers, with more vaccinations beginning on Saturday.
On Thursday, WHO's emergencies chief acknowledged the agency has been unable to track the origins of almost half of new Ebola cases in Congo, suggesting it doesn't know where the virus is spreading.
Friday's announcement quickly drew criticism from some experts.
The panel has only used the label "public health emergency of global concern" four times since the committee was formed in 2005.
"This epidemic is in a frightening phase and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon", said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.
The current Ebola crisis, which began in eastern DRC in August, has recorded more than 2000 cases - two-thirds of them deadly.
"We can't just parachute in, stop Ebola, and then leave".
Preben Aavitsland, acting chair of the WHO's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, said that "while the outbreak is an extraordinary event, and there's risk of international spread, we believe that the ongoing response would not be enhanced" by the formal steps that an international emergency declaration would trigger.
Ebola is a hemorrhagic viral disease with an incubation period of 2-21 days, beginning from contact with body fluids of an infected person.
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