Ebola outbreak risks international spread but isn’t formal emergency says WHO

Brittany A. Roston - Jun 14, 2019, 3:23pm CDT
Ebola outbreak risks international spread but isn’t formal emergency says WHO

Following its emergency committee meeting today, WHO reports that while the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the DRC and Uganda is deeply concerning, it doesn’t meet the criteria for an international emergency declaration. The meeting over whether the declaration should be made included ‘differing views’ from experts, according to WHO, which acknowledges the spread into Uganda represents an international spread of the virus.

News of the emergency committee meeting surfaced yesterday amid reports that two of the three people in Uganda who had contracted Ebola from the DRC outbreak had died. As with two similar past meetings, the experts convened to decide whether a ‘Public health emergency of international concern’ designation should be applied to the DRC outbreak.

The decision to convene the meeting came from WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations, the standards for which were used to determine whether a PHEIC declaration should be made. Though it seems there was debate over the decision based on WHO’s update today, the organization says that ultimately the outbreak doesn’t meet all three of the IHR’s criteria for declaring a PHEIC.

The current DRC Ebola outbreak does come with the risk of international spread, WHO acknowledges, but it wouldn’t ultimately benefit from a declaration being made. The organization praised the rapid response of officials in Uganda, where thousands of health care workers have been vaccinated for Ebola. Bordering nations have been preparing for the disease’s spread beyond the DRC’s borders.

The Emergency Committee formed some strong recommendations for countries and partners, including the need to improve preparedness in regards to detecting and managing exported cases of the disease. As well, the existing cross-border screening from DRC for Ebola should be improved, and there’s a call for the international community to contribute critical funds needed to deal with the outbreak.

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