The World Health Organization has declared that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not a Public Health Emergency. The organisation declared that the 1st Meeting of the 2018 International Health Regulations (IHR) Committee for Ebola Viral Disease in Congo took place on October 17. WHO stated that the response operations in the region were so strong that the committee ruled out that the outbreak didn’t qualify as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
However, the IHR also noted that the outbreak had other worrying characteristics. Since Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in Congo has affected the urban areas, there is a risk of rapid spread. Outbreaks have also been reported in hard-to-reach areas, which adds to the concern. Also, the healthcare staff who have been working to contain the infection have also been infected. IHR concluded that the risk of international spread remains high due to the proximity of the outbreak to significant regional traffic. At present, there’s also a logistical challenge affecting Ebola surveillance, case detection and confirmations, contact tracing, and access to vaccines and therapeutics due to the poor infrastructure in the region. New Ebola Virus Species Named ‘Bombali Ebola’ Detected in Sierra Leone.
These challenges notwithstanding, the IHR also noted that the response of the government of Congo, WHO and partners have been swift. It concluded that the interventions that are underway to contain the outbreak will ensure that it can be brought under control. The committee also stated that the vigorous responses should be supported by the entire international community. And that a decline in the present response levels would worsen the situation.
The committee also said that at present, there shouldn’t be any international travel or trade restrictions. That being said, the neighbouring countries should fortify their preparedness and surveillance of EVD. Vaccines For Ebola Can Now Protect Us From The Deadly Disease.
As of October 16, 2018, there has been a total of 220 EVD cases, out of which 185 are confirmed. A total of 142 deaths due to Ebola have been reported, with 107 confirmed cases. WHO added that the numbers may increase, considering there are delays in reporting and detecting cases, and security concerns which limit contact tracing and investigation of alerts.
Fifty four percent of those infected are women. A total of 20 healthcare workers have also been affected, of whom three have died.
The MoH, WHO and partners have been closely monitoring the system to understand the risks in the affected areas in Congo and its neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Southern Sudan.
While there appears to be no restriction against travel and trade, WHO advises that travellers should seek medical advice before travelling and that they practice good hygiene.
The MoH, WHO and partners continue to closely monitor and investigate all alerts in affected areas, in other provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in neighbouring countries. As of 16 October, 34 suspected cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are awaiting laboratory testing. Since 11 October, alerts have been investigated in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in neighbouring countries. To date, EVD has been ruled out in all alerts from neighbouring provinces and countries.