The deadly Ebola outbreak in Congo is now an international health emergency, the World Health Organization announced after a case was confirmed in a city of over 2 million occupants.
By James DiGeorgia
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in Congo a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The declaration by the WHO — an international body charged with coordinating a global response to this lethal disease in Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu province has already infected more than 2,500 people and killed nearly 1,700 according to Congo’s Health Ministry.
The WHO warning is based on its belief it could spill over borders to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and is an early warning that it could become a global health emergency.
The emergency declaration is based on international health regulations issued in 2005, which defined such an emergency — PHEIC, in global health parlance — as an “extraordinary event” that could spread to other countries and demanded a coordinated global response.
The director-general of WHO is responsible for deciding when and where to apply the label of an “emergency event”. The director will only declare the emergency event only after consulting a 10-member committee of Ebola experts. The same committee also is responsible for recommending when to end the global health emergency.
The World Health Organization has been forced to use the label of an emergency event, four times in the past: in response to the swine flu epidemic in 2009; the spread of polioviruses in several countries in 2014; the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa; and the 2016 Zika epidemic in the Western Hemisphere.