The World Health Organization (WHO) will decide today whether the Ebola outbreak in Congo constitutes a “global public health emergency.” In the meantime, WHO has increased the risk of Ebola spread in the country to “very high”.
“Based on the current situation and available information, the Director-General of WHO has decided to convene “an Emergency Committee (…) on Friday 18 May to provide advice on whether the current epidemic constitutes a global public health emergency,” the UN agency said in a press release.
The final decision rests in principle with the Director of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He is scheduled to address the media in Geneva, today.
Ebola outbreak might pass the Congo borders to other countries, says WHO
According to WHO, a first confirmed case of Ebola in urban areas has been recorded in Mbandaka, a city of about 1.5 million inhabitants on the Congo River and linked to Kinshasa by numerous river links.
This case “increases the risk of Ebola spread in Congo and neighboring countries”, according to WHO. WHO has also revised its assessment of the risk of this virus spreading, now considered “very high” at the national level and “high” for neighboring countries, while the global public health emergency level the risk is still classified as “low”.
However, WHO representatives will meet today to assess if the Ebola outbreak in Congo is a “global public health emergency”.
Ebola outbreak in Congo has already made 23 victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo
WHO counted a total of 44 cases (3 confirmed, 20 probable and 21 suspect), including 23 deaths. WHO also reports that it is sending over 7,500 doses of an experimental vaccine, out of which about 4,300 have already arrived in Kinshasa.
“The logistics and vaccination teams are in place to start vaccination as soon as possible,” says WHO. The most violent Ebola outbreak in history struck West Africa between late 2013 and 2016, causing more than 11,300 deaths out of some 29,000 reported cases, more than 99% in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The WHO has been strongly criticized for the slowness of its reaction, back then.