Ebola outbreak alarming, but not yet a ‘global health threat,’ WHO says

The World Health Organization on Friday said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is cause for extraordinary concern, but has not yet reached the threshold to declare it a global emergency.

More than 1,400 people have died from Ebola in eastern DR Congo and more than 2,100 are infected with this fatal disease.  This makes the epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu province the second largest after the West African outbreak in 2014, which killed some 11,300 people.

This was the third time the WHO committee met to discuss the ongoing outbreak — and the third time the experts declined to declare a global health emergency.

To be declared a global emergency, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response. The declaration typically triggers more funding and political attention.

Speaking from the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said there was now a stronger political engagement to make sure the outbreak was contained.

“It will take longer than originally anticipated,” she said

“However, we still believe that it can be contained. It will need a multi-facet response not a simple public health response as had initially been thought. But we anticipate that it will eventually be contained.”

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