Monday, 18 November, 2019

WHO declares Ebola outbreak is worldwide health emergency, but not global threat

Ebola screening station 1st Ebola death confirmed in DRC's Goma
Anna Jefferson | 20 July, 2019, 16:09

The WHO chief said the DRC needs funding from the worldwide community, otherwise "we will be paying for this outbreak for a long time to come".

Wednesday's meeting was the fourth time experts have convened to assess the threat level since the outbreak began. But members also cautioned against using the declaration to impose punitive travel restrictions on countries in the affected area.

In addition, as we previously reported the Ebola virus spread internationally to Uganda recently, which does heighten the risk to the pandemic catastrophe bond, as spread across borders is a requirement for the trigger to be activated.

The Chair of the Emergency Committee, Robert Steffen, said it is important that the world follows these recommendations.

Ebola began spreading in Congo's conflict-ridden North Kivu province last summer and has infected more than 2,500 and killed almost 1,700, according to official Health Ministry figures.

Indeed, WHO said that since February it has so far gotten $49m from global donors, just half the necessary funding needed to put up a sufficient response.

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Despite a highly effective vaccine and a swift worldwide response after it was declared 11 months ago, the outbreak has proved tenacious, becoming Congo's worst ever.

According to WHO, PHEIC is a formal declaration by the worldwide health agency of "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the global spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated worldwide response".

The current outbreak is spreading in a turbulent Congo border region where dozens of rebel groups are active and where Ebola had not been experienced before. More than 115 health workers have been infected. Future emergency declarations might be perceived as punishment and "might result in other countries not reporting outbreaks in the future, which puts us all at greater risk". Some infected people have deliberately evaded health authorities. The organisation has confirmed he has died.

The pastor who brought Ebola to Goma used several fake names to hide his identity on his way to the city, Congolese officials said.

There also needs to be a certain rolling number of cases being confirmed at the time of the triggering (a growth factor), while the disease also needs to have spread internationally and at the same time a growth factor in terms of the rate of new cases being reported in the new country as well.

Health workers fronting the vaccination campaign have also faced hostility from at-risk communities where some equate Ebola with witchcraft - the sort of resistance that the Ugandan ministry said workers trying to trace people who may have come into contact with the woman fishmonger were having to deal with.

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