WHO will take up Ebola emergency declaration question for a fourth time

Ebola hot spot

World Bank / Vincent Tremeau/ Flickr cc

Tomorrow Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the director-general for the World Health Organization (WHO) will reconvene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations to consider yet again if the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a PHEIC (public health emergency of international concern).

The meeting, which will take place in Geneva at WHO headquarters, is the fourth such meeting held during this outbreak and was triggered by the detection of the first case in Goma, the heavily populated capital of North Kivu province.

Despite steady transmission, acts of violence against response workers, and community resistance, the Emergency Committee has said the outbreak is fairly contained in North Kivu and Ituri province, and is not a global threat. Also, many within the DRC have argued a PHEIC designation would further harm the DRC's already fragile economy by inhibiting trade.

The committee last met on Jun 14 after three cases of Ebola were identified in Uganda, which was the first time in the current outbreak that the disease had crossed international borders.

At the time Tedros said issuing a PHEIC would be an inappropriate way to raise funds for the outbreak.

"We have the people, the tools, the knowledge, and the determination to end this outbreak," he said. "We need the sustained political commitment of all parties, so we can safely access and work with communities. We also need the international community to step up its financial commitment to ending the outbreak."

The current outbreak began on Aug 1, 2018 in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, DRC. It is the world's second largest outbreak, and the tenth outbreak the DRC has recorded since 1976.

11 new cases of Ebola today

Today the DRC will likely confirm 11 more cases of Ebola, according to the online dashboard updated by the WHO, which shows a total of 2,512 cases. As of yesterday, the DRC had recorded 1,668 deaths in this outbreak, and was still investigating 292 suspected cases.

Today Reuters reported more details on the first Ebola patient in Goma, DRC's largest city in the outbreak region. The man died en route to a treatment center in Butembo, Reuters said.

Yesterday the WHO said 60 case contacts of the patient had been identified, and about half were vaccinated. The case-patient was a pastor who traveled from Butembo, a current hotspot of the outbreak, to Goma by bus.

Goma, home to nearly 1 million people, is the largest city to be affected by the outbreak. The city borders Rwanda and has been an area of concern for health officials for nearly a year.

See also:

Jun 14 CIDRAP News Story “WHO experts again say Ebola not global health emergency

WHO Ebola dashboard

Jul 16 Reuters story

Jul 15 DRC update

This week's top reads