Wednesday November 21, 2018

Ebola Not A Global Health Emergency: WHO

WHO advised DRC's nine neighboring countries that they were at high risk of having the disease spread into their territories

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An emergency committee convened by the World Health Organization has decided that the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

The WHO said Wednesday that 216 cases of Ebola and 139 deaths had been reported, and its International Health Regulations Emergency Committee said the outbreak was a matter of serious concern, especially since it is occurring in an area of conflict in eastern DRC. It said this posed problems for health workers who need to move around freely and track people who are infected with the virus and need treatment.

But the committee said that one reason it did not regard the outbreak as a global threat was that the virus had not spread into neighboring countries.

Congo,ebola
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Committee Chairman Robert Steffan said the international response to the outbreak had been very good. He said WHO and other agencies had achieved quite a lot since the outbreak was declared Aug. 1. In fact, he said the disease was being brought under control in North Kivu province.

The disease is flaring up in another province, and the response is being concentrated in this area, he said, “so we do have some optimism that this outbreak, just like the one in May, will be brought under control within reasonable time.”

Steffan said the committee agreed that declaring an international emergency at this time would hinder efforts to contain the Ebola virus. He said a declaration would have implications for travel and trade, making it difficult for needed experts and supplies to access the affected areas.

Ebola, WHO
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

However, as a precaution, WHO recommended exit screenings, including at airports, ports and land crossings. But it noted that entry screenings, particularly in distant airports, would have no public health benefit and would be costly.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

WHO advised DRC’s nine neighboring countries that they were at high risk of having the disease spread into their territories, and it said it was supporting them with equipment and personnel. It said these preparedness activities were expensive and would require substantial financial support from the international community. (VOA)

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Eastern Congo Suffers From a Deadly Ebola Outbreak

Some people still refuse to believe Ebola exists and have hidden infected family members.

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Ebola, WHO
In this photo taken Sept 9, 2018, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC. VOA

An outbreak of Ebola in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed more than 200 people. Almost 300 Ebola cases have been confirmed since the outbreak began in August, authorities say.

The health ministry said half of the cases were in Beni, a city of 800,000 people, in the North Kivu province.

The outbreak is in a conflict zone where dozens of armed groups operate. Aid agencies have been forced to suspend or slow down their work on several occasions since the outbreak.

Ebola, WHO
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo. VOA

Health Minister Oly Ilunga said his response teams “have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment and kidnapping.”

“Two of our colleagues in the Rapid Response Medical Unit have even lost their lives in an attack,” Ilunga said.

Ebola was detected in the DRC in 1976. The current outbreak is the tenth since it was first discovered.

The World Health Organization has warned the virus could spread to nearby countries, including Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

congo, ebola
Health care workers from the World Health Organization prepare to give an Ebola vaccination to a front-line aid worker in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Medical workers have lots of experience dealing with Ebola outbreaks in the DRC. Fortunately, they have new tools to fight the deadly virus. A new vaccine has shown it can protect people who’ve come into contact with Ebola victims, and more people have learned techniques to keep the virus from spreading.

Also Read: Uganda Readies Itself To Fight Off Ebola From The DRC Border

However, old problems persist with every outbreak. Some people still refuse to believe Ebola exists and have hidden infected family members. Traditional burial practices also put people at risk. (VOA)