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WHO sounds an Ebola alarm as the risks intensify


A Congolese health worker administers the vaccine to a child at Ebola Himbi de Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on July 17, 2019. Olivia Acland, Reuters

GENEVA – The World Health Organization said on Wednesday Wednesday that the outbreak of Ebola del Congo was an international sanitary emergency, and that a global alarm rarely used after the virus threatened to extend. ; to an important city and to neighboring countries.

Despite a very effective vaccine and a rapid international response after it was declared 11 months ago, the outbreak has been tenuous in an unstable region besieged by violence, becoming the worst in Congo, with nearly 1,700 deaths.

A vast surveillance and vaccination campaign, with almost 75 million projections, has maintained the highly infectious virus almost entirely confined to two provinces in northeastern Congo. The emergency committee of international health experts who advises WHO to refuse three times to declare an emergency.

But this past month a pastor died after traveling to Goma, a city of 2 million and a gateway to other countries in the region. On Wednesday, WHO reported that a fisherman had died in the Congo after four incidents of vomiting in a market in Uganda, where vaccination was possible for 590 people.

"The committee is concerned that a year after the outbreak there are signs of concern about the possible extension of the epidemic," said the report of the committee.

The committee had been subjected to the pressure of many experts who felt that the scale and risks were supposed to be receiving emergency status – only the fifth outbreak of this disease since the WHO introduced these designations in 2005.

"It shows no control signal," said Peter Piot, a member of the team that discovered Ebola and is now director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

"I hope the decision today will serve as an awkward call to promote high-level political action, improve coordination and obtain more funds to support the DRC in their efforts to curb this devastating epidemic, "he said.


Earlier international emergencies, under a system introduced after the 2004 Asian SARS epidemic, were the Western African Ebola epidemic of 2013-2016, which killed more than 11,300 people , the 2009 influenza pandemic, poliomyelitis in 2014 and the Zika virus that caused a guarantee of birth defects. in Latin America.

WHO committee chairman Robert Steffen moderated the designation of the outbreak as an emergency saying it was still a regional and non-regional threat, and stressed that no country should react to the " # Ebola closing borders or restricting trade.

WHO has warned that the nearest countries in Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are most at risk, while the Central African Republic, Angola, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and Zambia are on a second level.

Earlier this week, WHO said hundreds of millions of dollars were needed immediately to prevent the outbreak from spreading out of control and costing many more lives and money.

But the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who convened the emergency committee after seeing Goma's case as a "potential game changer," said the appointment as an international emergency did not want to suggest Some countries had received funds and now they would be unlocked.

One of the priorities was to accelerate the production of the vaccine, which is scarce. It is produced by Merck and still unlicensed, which means that it can only be used in a clinical trial supervised by the Ministry of Health of Congo.

WHO has already begun to use smaller doses for serving supplies and the committee recommends taking "all measures to increase supplies," including supply procurement to other manufacturers and the transfer of Merck technology.

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