BFF-66 WHO considering global health emergency over DRC Ebola outbreak

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WHO considering global health emergency over DRC Ebola outbreak

GENEVA, Oct 15, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The World Health Organization said Monday
its experts will meet this week to determine whether an Ebola outbreak in
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes a global health emergency.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has convened “an emergency committee”
on the current outbreak in DRC’s violence-torn North Kivu region, which has
killed 135 people since August, the UN health agency said in a statement.

“The committee will meet on October 17 in Geneva to ascertain whether the
outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” the
statement said.

In the WHO’s parlance, “a public health emergency of international concern”
is an “extraordinary event” in which a disease may spread across borders and
requires a vigorous international response.

The agency first invoked the emergency mechanism in 2009 when a new strain
of influenza, so-called H1N1 swine flu, emerged.

It was also declared twice in 2014, when polio re-emerged after the disease
was nearly eradicated, and after an Ebola epidemic struck three West African
countries.

Then in 2016, a global emergency was declared in response to an outbreak of
the Zika virus.

Monday’s announcement came after DRC Health Minister Oly Ilunga warned over
the weekend that a second wave of the Ebola virus had been confirmed in the
outbreak in North Kivu, which is home to a clutch of armed groups.

He said the second wave occurred as a result of community resistance to
measures taken to tackle the disease, describing the outbreak as “high risk.”

“The situation is worrying,” he said.

Fears and misconceptions about the virus have led to widespread mistrust
and resistance to Ebola response workers, including those who come into
communities wearing hazmat suits to orchestrate burials.

A staff member of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO was among the latest
victims of the virus, the UN and DRC health ministry said.

The latest outbreak — the 10th in DR Congo since Ebola was first detected
there in 1976 — so far counts 211 confirmed and probable cases of the virus,
including 135 deaths.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 2300 hrs