World Health Organization emergency panel to consider declaring Ebola outbreak an worldwide threat

Grant Boone
June 18, 2019

This outbreak, the second-deadliest in history, has killed more than 1,400 people since it was declared in August. More than 11,300 people died in the three countries.

On Thursday, WHO's emergencies chief acknowledged the agency has been unable to track the origins of almost half of new Ebola cases in Congo amid the challenges, suggesting it doesn't know where the virus is spreading. While Uganda is well prepared to handle this outbreak in the country, as long as the disease continues to spread in the DRC, we will continue to see cases cross worldwide borders and into neighboring countries. Three members of the family who brought the virus into Uganda have died after attending the burial of an infected relative, a popular pastor, in Congo.

The epidemic is occurring in northeastern DRC, in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which hug the country's borders with South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda.

World Health Organization officials added that, since Nov 7, Uganda has vaccinated 4,699 healthcare and frontline workers as part of its Ebola preparedness activities and noted that nine Ebola treatment units are in place in districts that border the DRC's Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

A press release also stated that although the outbreak in Congo continues to be a risk to neighbouring countries, the possibility of the virus spread to countries outside the region remains low.

His 50-year-old grandmother and 3-year-old brother were also infected.

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Other contacts have been identified, and advised to remain at home to be vaccinated against the disease. She found that compared to the reported size of the outbreak in these places, only about 17% to 48% were actually reported. Health officials are still investigating 322 suspected cases.

"It is clearly the responsibility of the district to order supplies", she said. "It is not cost-effective" to build permanent structures. Uganda's Health Ministry said they voluntarily agreed to return - and that five more of their relatives in the DRC have tested positive for Ebola. And while it is still less than one-tenth of the size of the massive West African outbreak that ran from 2014 to 2016, it is proving to be potentially more hard to control. "A dedicated person focused on this aspect of the response should be part of the senior coordination with a mandate to work closely with existing health and protection efforts to meaningfully engage communities".

Still, corruption is rampant, and many local people are scornful of government officials seen as out of touch.

That changed this week with confirmation that Ebola had reached western Uganda, where it has claimed two lives so far. They found at least half of all outbreaks have gone unreported since Ebola's discovery in 1976, representing over 100 cases.

At the World Health Organization media briefing today, Ryan said World Health Organization officials welcome the new development, which will double vaccine capacity. He also said it "does not consider entry screening at airports or other ports of entry to be necessary".

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