WHO downgrades Ebola threat
- Published: Wednesday, 30 March 2016 14:45
The 9th meeting of the WHO Ebola Emergency Committee took place by teleconference on Tuesday, 29th March 2016. During the meeting the Committee decided that Ebola no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
Representatives of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone presented the epidemiological situation, ongoing work to prevent Ebola re-emergence, and capacity to detect and respond rapidly to any new clusters of cases in each country.
The Committee noted that since its last meeting all three countries have met the criteria for confirming interruption of their original chains of Ebola virus transmission. Specifically, all three countries have now completed the 42-day observation period and additional 90-day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negative. Guinea achieved this milestone on 27th March 2016.
The Committee observed that, as expected, new clusters of Ebola cases continue to occur due to reintroductions of virus as it is cleared from the survivor population, though at decreasing frequency. Twelve such clusters have been detected to date, the most recent of which was reported on 17 March 2016 in Guinea and is ongoing. The Committee was impressed that to date all of these clusters have been detected and responded to rapidly, limiting transmission to at most two generations of cases in the 11 clusters which have now been stopped.
The Committee determined that the risk of international spread is now low, and that countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new virus emergences. Accordingly, in the Committee’s view the Ebola situation in West Africa no longer constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and the Temporary Recommendations adopted in response should now be terminated. The Committee emphasized that there should be no restrictions on travel and trade with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and that any such measures should be lifted immediately.
The Committee emphasized the crucial need for continued international donor and technical support to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to any new Ebola outbreak in West Africa. International support is required in particular to maintain and, where needed, expand diagnostic laboratory and surveillance capacity, sustain vaccination capacity for outbreak response, and continue relevant research and development activities (e.g. on therapeutic options to clear persistent virus excretion).
Based on the advice of the Emergency Committee, and her own assessment of the situation, the Director-General terminated the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005). The Director-General terminated the Temporary Recommendations that she had issued in relation to this event, supported the public health advice provided above by the Committee, and reinforced the importance of States Parties immediately lifting any restrictions on travel and trade with these countries. The Director-General thanked the Emergency Committee members and advisors for their service and expert advice, and requested their availability to reconvene if needed.