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DRC Ebola outbreak declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This reflects worries that, while the risk of Ebola infection remains low at a global level, ‘there is cause for concern linked to the recent case in Goma, as the city is a provincial capital with an airport with international flights’.

The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for EVD in the DRC, which took place on July 17th.

The Emergency Committee expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response. They also reinforced the need to protect livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.

“It is important that the world follows these recommendations. It is also crucial that states do not use the PHEIC as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which would have a negative impact on the response and on the lives and livelihoods of people in the region,” said Professor Robert Steffen, chair of the Emergency Committee.

In recommending a PHEIC the committee made specific recommendations related to this outbreak:

For neighbouring countries:

  • At-risk countries should work urgently with partners to improve their preparedness for detecting and managing imported cases, including the mapping of health facilities and active surveillance with zero reporting.
  • Countries should continue to map population movements and sociological patterns that can predict risk of disease spread.
  • Risk communications and community engagement, especially at points of entry, should be increased.
  • At-risk countries should put in place approvals for investigational medicines and vaccines as an immediate priority for preparedness.

For all countries:

  • No country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel and trade. Such measures are usually implemented out of fear and have no basis in science. They push the movement of people and goods to informal border crossings that are not monitored, thus increasing the chances of the spread of disease. Most critically, these restrictions can also compromise local economies and negatively affect response operations from a security and logistics perspective.
  • National authorities should work with airlines and other transport and tourism industries to ensure that they do not exceed WHO’s advice on international traffic.
  • The Committee does not consider entry screening at airports or other ports of entry outside the region to be necessary.

Source: WHO



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