Ebola outbreak in Congo still not considered a global emergency
In this photo provided by the International Rescue Committee, a Congolese refugee is screened for Ebola symptoms at the IRC triage facility in the Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa District in western Uganda, June 13, 2019. (Kellie Ryan/International Rescue Committee via AP)
The World Health Organization says Ebola continues to be an emergency in Congo and poses a threat to Uganda and neighboring countries, but does not yet constitute a global public health threat.
At a news conference held in Geneva, members of the emergency committee reiterated concern about the growing number of cases in Africa, which now top 2,108 cases of Ebola, and 1,411 deaths. Travellers from Congo have also brought Ebola to Uganda , which has now recorded two deaths with some 50 people being followed for possible Ebola infection.
Officials say the situation remains dangerous and not under control but does not constitute a public emergency of international concern.
“Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasize that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CTV News by phone from Congo.
The committee said it was deeply concerned that public health efforts to control infections and trace those exposed are being slowed by what it called “strained human resources.” Part of the blame is being placed on resistance in local communities.
Efforts to control the disease in Congo have been met with hostility and at times violence in some areas, with people throwing rocks at aid workers and attacking clinics. At least one doctor was killedin April.
“We have a huge problem with the community which does not trust the medical community,” said Antoine Gauge, a worker with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Goma, who spoke to CTV News via Facetime.
“The situation is still worrying. We have so many confirmed cases, and their contacts have not been followed up. We have to work to find the contacts of the confirmed cases, to stop as soon as possible the epidemic.” he added.
The WHO admitted earlier this week it’s been unable to identify the sources of nearly half of new Ebola cases in Congo, suggesting health workers don’t know where the virus is moving.
Ebola spreads through contact with the blood, body fluids, or organs of someone who is infected.
Dr. Preben Aavitsland,acting chair of the WHO’s Emergency Committee, also told reporters that the group was “deeply disappointed that countries didn’t receive more funding for the outbreak,” asking international countries help pay for the disease control.
Congo’s epidemic is the second worst in the world since the Ebola outbreak in 2014-16.
A panel of 13 independent medical experts on the WHO’s Emergency Committee was asked to evaluate the latest evidence and whether to ratchet up the designation of it as posing international concern.
Such a decision would lead to boosting public health measures, funding and resources, and could include recommendations on trade and travel, academic experts and aid groups said. The WHO panel has used the label "public health emergency of international concern" only four times previously.
Those included the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and an earlier Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Cheng reported from London.