Ebola outbreak still a global emergency despite significant drop in cases – UN health agency

Saturday, April 11, 2015
By Paul Martin

10 April 2015

A meeting convened by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa still poses a threat to international peace and security, despite a major fall-off in in case incidence and geographic distribution in the most-affected countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

During the fifth meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee yesterday, the body determined that Ebola continued to constitute a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ and recommended the extension of all previous temporary recommendations.

Deliberating on whether or not Ebola constituted a public health emergency, the Committee reviewed developments since its last meeting on 20 January, it noted further improvements in prevention and control activities across West Africa, including in contact tracing. Observing declines in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the virus appeared to have reduced its spread.

“These three IHR States Parties provided updates and assessment of the Ebola outbreak, in terms of the epidemiological situation and the status and performance of exit screening and contact tracing,” said a statement by the Emergency Committee.

While recognizing the progress achieved by all three countries, the Committee emphasized that there is no place for complacency, and reinforced the importance of community engagement in the UN-backed goal of “getting to zero.”

The rapid interruption of transmission remained the primary goal of the Committee, which expressed continued concern over recent health care worker infections and reaffirmed the importance of rigorously applying appropriate prevention and control measures.

A recent case of possible infection after sexual contact with an Ebola survivor months after recovery became the focus of a discussion on sexual transmission with the Committee welcoming ongoing research in this area and urging its acceleration.

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