Published: Sun, June 16, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

World Health Organization says DRC Ebola outbreak not an ‘international’ emergency

World Health Organization says DRC Ebola outbreak not an ‘international’ emergency

Mike Ryan, MD, the WHO's executive director of emergency programs, said there has been very little funding available to help the DRC's four closest neighbors prepare for imported Ebola cases-and there's still a $27 million shortfall in that support. And a third case has been confirmed, according to Uganda's Ministry of Health.

The WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to decide whether the current outbreak amounts to an global public health emergency and how to handle it.

"Knowing that Ebola is rarely detected within the first few cases emphasises the importance of having widely available infection control and diagnostic resources", Emma Glennon, from Cambridge's Department of Veterinary Medicine, told AFP.

Tedros is in Kinshasa today meeting with top officials in the DRC and will next visit the outbreak region before traveling on to Uganda to assess the latest developments.

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"Our teams in the field in the DRC see the devastating effect of the virus on children every day - they have died, have seen parents and family die in the most gruesome way, they live in fear, schools are closed".

The U.N. health agency convened its expert committee for the third time to assess the outbreak, which some experts said met the criteria to be designated an worldwide emergency long ago.

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Congo's epidemic is the second worst worldwide since West Africa's Ebola outbreak in 2014-16, with 2,084 cases and 1,405 deaths since being declared in August.

The WHO panel has used the label "public health emergency of worldwide concern" only four times previously. The declaration achieves an global response and attracts funding.

The WHO's emergency committee described the outbreak as "an extraordinary event" of deep concern, but said it does not yet meet the criteria to be designated an global emergency. "Declaring this a PHEIC would have raised the levels of global political support, which has been lacking to date; enhanced diplomatic, public health, security, and logistic efforts as well as released more financial resources to support the incredibly courageous and committed teams working in North Kivu, DRC", he wrote to ScienceInsider in an email.

Ninety-eight contacts with infected people have been identified. "The WHO and the African Union must take the lead and insist that all available vaccines be used, and the Congolese government must forget its political in-fighting and ensure that stockpiles are available immediately to all who need them". The World Health Organization (WHO) in Uganda said Saturday that it has started ring vaccination of all contacts of the confirmed Ebola cases including health workers.

But the World Health Organization committee saw little to gain and much to lose, Aavitsland explained at the press conference.

Medical workers leading Uganda's effort against Ebola lament what they call limited support in the days since infected members of a Congolese-Ugandan family showed up, one vomiting blood. Two of those patients died.

Authorities in DR Congo have been at pains to rein in the disease's spread in part because health workers have been repeatedly targeted in violence-ridden eastern Congo, the epicentre of the outbreak.

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