Ebola now a global emergency

Henrietta Strickland
July 18, 2019

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared Congo's Ebola outbreak an worldwide health emergency, sounding a rarely used global alarm after the virus threatened to spread to a major city and into neighbouring countries.

"It is time for the world to take notice", WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "We've higher public health tools than ever to reply to Ebola fever, as well as a good immunogen", said Dr. Tedros. Since its founding 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $17 billion in aid to 164 countries, including the United States. "We all owe it to these responders - coming from World Health Organization as well as government, communities, and partners - to shoulder more of the burden".

For the DRC, factors affecting the outbreak of the Ebola include population movement in highly densely populated areas, weak infection and prevention control practices in many health facilities, complex political environment, continued reluctance in the community and the ongoing unstable security situation.

The announcement was made on Wednesday following a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in Congo, the fourth of its kind since the outbreak was declared on August 1, 2018, Xinhua reported. The latest diagnosis came out as recently as July 14.

A city of about one million people, Goma sits on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, adjacent to Rwanda's town of Gisenyi.

Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Even after a year of the outbreak of the disease, a spread of this degree shows the inefficiency to contain the outbreak.

Three people died in Uganda last month.

The declaration is expected to have worldwide implications.

But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who convened the emergency committee after viewing the Goma case as a "potential gamechanger", said the designation as an worldwide emergency was not meant to suggest that some countries had been withholding funds and would now unlock them.

Three people died in Uganda last month during the current epidemic, which has killed nearly 1,700 people in 11 months.

Declaring the epidemic an emergency is a rare step for the WHO, which typically reserves the move for outbreaks that could severely affect public health and/or spread to other countries.

The declaration has also brought hope for gathering fund for the eradication of the disease.

Internal documents later showed World Health Organization held off partly out of fear a declaration would anger the countries involved and hurt their economies. It is essential to keep away from the correctional economic outcomes of travel and trade restrictions on affected communities. Robert Steffen, the chair of the emergency committee which recommended the PHEIC and an epidemiologist at University of Zurich, Switzerland, expressed his concerns, "This is still a regional emergency and [in] no way a global threat". He also accepted suggestions that no restrictions should be placed on travel, or trade, and that travellers need not be screened at the entry point at ports or airports.

The WHO's worldwide health regulations, drafted in 2005, say that the emergency label should apply to a situation that is "an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to other countries through global spread and that potentially requires a coordinated global response".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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