While the world focusses on COVID-19, the Ebola Virus Disease risk remains

Published: Thursday, 13 February 2020 09:52

On 12th February the World Health Organization held a meeting of the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) to review the current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Presentations were made by representatives of the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the WHO Secretariat, and the UN Ebola Emergency Response Coordinator.

The current situation in the DRC was reviewed which was reported as follows:

As of 10 February 2020, there were a total of 3431 cases, of which 3308 were confirmed and 123 were probable. 2253 persons have died (66 percent). Between 3 and 9 February 2020, three new confirmed cases were reported in Beni Health Zone, North Kivu. These three cases were already registered as contacts and two were under surveillance at the time of detection. More than 2000 contacts are being followed. There has been an increase in the number of security incidents in recent months.

The WHO Secretariat gave an overview of the epidemiological situation, which shows an overall encouraging trend in case incidence and geographic spread. It was noted that sustaining this progress depends on the security situation and control of the well-known drivers of transmission, particularly in traditional health facilities, and on continued trust and communication with the community.

It was the unanimous view of the Committee that this EVD outbreak still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) under the IHR (2005).

The Committee acknowledged the revised risk assessment, which puts the risk now as high at national and regional levels, and low at the global level.

More details.

While it is understandable that the current focus is on COVID-19, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the EVD outbreak is also a PHEIC and requires monitoring. The 66 percent mortality rate is an obvious concern, as are the possible cascading impacts for the DRC and surrounding areas should COVID-19 reach and spread through the region at the same time as EVD control is being undertaken. The ramping up of pressure on local health services could result in EVD measures becoming less effective.