Ebola Outbreak Declared a Public Health Emergency by World Health Organization

In this photograph taken Saturday July 13, 2019, health workers wearing protective suits take their shift at a treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC.
Photo: Jerome Delay (AP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that it has elected to declare the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern,” a decision that comes nearly a year after the outbreak was first declared and after the infection of thousands of people.

The declaration was made following the fourth meeting of an emergency panel of experts who cited new developments in the outbreak, the second largest on record, as reason to issue the order after previously declining to do so.

This week’s decision follows recent news that the virus had reached the city of Goma by an infected priest who has since died. Goma sees roughly 1,100 people cross the border into neighboring Rwanda per month, according to WHO.

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“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said in a statement.

As of July 15, there have 2,418 confirmed cases linked to the outbreak, with 1,582 people confirmed dead. UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said this week ahead of the committee meeting that “there have been 750 infections among children. This represents 31 percent of total cases, compared with about 20 percent in previous outbreaks.”

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WHO said last month that it lacked critical funding for its response efforts, having received only $44 million of the $98 million it says it needs to continue fighting the epidemic at its current scale.

Josie Golding of the UK-based research outfit Wellcome Trust said, per the New York Times, that the declaration this week could “help raise international support and release more resources—including finance, health care workers, enhanced logistics, security and infrastructure.”

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