The second most deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus in history has turned into an emergency of international public health, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, a statement that marks a new level of concern for the infection .
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the health group was worried that the virus could become out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"The risk of Ebola spread to the DRC and the region is very high," said the director general at a press conference. The risk of virus spread beyond the surrounding countries is low.
According to a WHO report on July 9, the outbreak, which began in August 2018, has infected more than 2,300 people and killed more than 1,500 people. At the beginning of June a few cases were confirmed in neighboring Uganda, and now the disease has reached Goma, a large city bordering on Rwanda, causing fear that one of the most serious diseases on Earth can be spread throughout the region
WHO officials said Tuesday that there were no confirmed cases in Uganda, despite concerns about a woman who last week crossed the country's border in Congo and died later.
It is the second most deadly outbreak in history, after the outbreak of 2013 to 2016 that killed more than 11,000 people, mainly in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ghebreyesus said that there were more than 75 million projections for the disease in the border crossings of the DRC and that travel or trade restrictions would not be useful. When countries promulgate these restrictions, it is often devastating for local economies, as it happened during the Ebola outbreak from 2013 to 2016.
"Now is the time for the international community to solidify with the people of the DRC, that it does not impose punitive and counter-productive restrictions that only serve to isolate them," he said.
The Merck & Co V920 experimental vaccine has been widely used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the August outbreak began. Merck has donated 195,000 doses to the WHO to respond to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda since last year, Merck spokeswoman Pamela Eisele said in an email. The company has another 245,000 doses available for shipment.
Although the company has increased its projection of supply of vaccines by 2020 to 900,000 doses, there is still a need for more vaccines, said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Emergency Health Program.
In addition to working with manufacturers to increase the supply, Ryan said that the WHO supports the introduction of a second vaccine, the experimental treatment of Johnson & Johnson is the most likely candidate. Although there are doubts that a second vaccine may confuse the local population, Ryan said that health officials "work these problems on where and when the vaccine could be used."
The declaration of emergency of public health is reserved to extraordinary circumstances, according to the WHO. It can help mobilize the international response to an outbreak, provide more resources and focus the government's attention on the subject. WHO has considered and rejected declaring the current emergency an international emergency several times, stating that it will continue to monitor the situation.
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