WHO Ebola emergency committee meets for the sixth time: outbreak continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

Published: Wednesday, 08 July 2015 08:20

The 6th meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) regarding the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa took place by teleconference on Thursday, 2nd July 2015, and by electronic correspondence from 2nd-6th July 2015.

The Committee’s role was to advise the WHO Director-General as to:

1.Whether the event continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and, if so,

2.Whether the current temporary recommendations should be extended, or revised, or whether new temporary recommendations should be issued.

In a post-meeting statement, WHO summarised the key outcomes from the Committee meeting. These include:

The Committee reviewed developments since its previous meeting on 9th April 2015. These included decreased numbers of cases overall, a plateau in case incidence over the past five weeks, concentration of the outbreak primarily in Western areas of Guinea and Sierra Leone, as well as the identification of the three new cases in Liberia.

The Committee noted that although some improvements have been observed, inappropriate travel and transport measures continue to be implemented by numerous countries and a number of international airlines have still not resumed flights to the affected countries.

The Committee advised that the EVD outbreak continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and previously issued temporary recommendations should be extended.

In addition, the Committee advised the WHO Director-General to consider the following:

Recommendations for the most affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone)

The Committee emphasized that the goal is to get to zero transmission as quickly as possible. Exit screening should be continued in the three affected countries. Detailed statistics on exit screening should be published monthly. The Committee called for international support for these countries to carry out effective exit screening.

The Committee advised these countries to further strengthen cross-border collaboration and communication, particularly between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Affected countries should make every effort to retain and retrain health workers, and ensure the engagement of communities in all aspects of the response. The Committee emphasized the importance of providing social and psychosocial support to communities and support to persons placed in quarantine.

The Committee noted with concern the recent infections of a physician and an ambulance driver, which again underscore the importance of ensuring continued rigorous application of appropriate infection prevention and control measures in both private and public health facilities.

Recommendations for countries sharing borders with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

The Committee reiterated the critical importance of surveillance (especially near international borders), collaboration across borders, a strongly functioning alert system and contact tracing. These activities should be implemented with consideration of the extensive cross-border social and cultural linkages.

The Committee particularly recommended the further strengthening of preparedness and related capacities in Guinea-Bissau.

Travel recommendations for all countries

The Committee reaffirmed the need to avoid unnecessary interference with international travel and transport, and, as specified in Article 2 of the IHR, to implement only measures commensurate with the current public health risks.

Read the full WHO statement.