Monday, 19 August, 2019

Why Ebola is now an international emergency

Pastor's death raises fear that Ebola has spread to Goma 1st Ebola death confirmed in DRC's Goma
Anna Jefferson | 18 July, 2019, 04:55

The head of the World Health Organization is convening a meeting of experts Wednesday July 17, 2019 to decide whether the Ebola outbreak should be declared an global emergency after spreading to eastern Congo's biggest city, Goma, this week.

The emergency committee of global health experts that advises WHO had thrice declined to declare an emergency. The disease's presence was also recently confirmed in the DRC city of Goma, which is considered a transport hub and is near the Rwandan border.

The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in the DRC, the fourth of its kind since the outbreak was declared on August 1 of 2018.

"While it does not change the reality on the ground for victims or partners engaged in the response, we hope it will bring the worldwide attention that this crisis deserves", it said in a statement.

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".

The U.S. Agency for International Development applauded the World Health Organization decision and said USAID officials would "continue to scale up life-saving support" to end the outbreak.

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Here's a look at Ebola and the unprecedented challenges health workers face in trying to contain what the WHO chief has called one of the world's most unsafe diseases in one of the world's most risky regions.

The decision Wednesday was based on a vote by 11 members of an expert panel convened by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of World Health Organization, to reassess the current outbreak after an infected man carried the virus to the city of Goma, a transportation hub close to Rwanda that has an worldwide airport. The first death from the virus, that of a pastor, was confirmed this week. As of Monday, the disease had infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676 of them. The virus is not airborne, which means a person can not get the disease simply by breathing the same air as an infected patient. It's second only to the 2014-2016 epidemic in multiple West African countries that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Ebola is not rocket science, it's very simple", he said.

Earlier this week, Ugandan health officials said a Congolese fish trader had traveled to Uganda while sick and vomited several times at a local market.

At the Goma-Gisenyi crossing on Wednesday, megaphone announcements instructed all travellers to wash their hands "to prevent Ebola sickness virus", using basins of water with added bleach. Ugandan officials estimate nearly 600 people could be targeted for vaccination and follow-up. DRC officials said that the victim was a pastor who had visited Butembo, one of the centres of the outbreak, last week.

"We have sufficiently informed them about the existence of this disease but there are still people who don't want to believe that it does".

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