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World Health Organization says Ebola outbreak in DRC is a global emergency

18 July 2019

Concerns of further spread were reignited last month when infected individuals died in neighboring Uganda after traveling from the DRC.

Goma has a population of roughly 1 million and is a transport hub.

Since Aug. 8, 2018, more than 163,500 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the outbreak zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, using an experimental vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical company Merck.

Although the committee declared Ebola to be a global health emergency, Tedros said WHO did not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization reported a fisherwoman had died in Congo after four vomiting incidents at a market in Uganda, where 590 people may be sought for vaccination.

The global emergency "should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help", he said.

"Those restrictions would actually restrict the flow of goods and health care workers into affected countries so they are counter-productive", she said.

The WHO's emergency committee of worldwide experts were meeting on Wednesday for a fourth time to consider if the 11-month outbreak constituted a "public health emergency of global concern" (PHEIC), and will announce their decision at 1700 GMT.

In declaring the PHEIC today, the World Health Organization urged countries not to use the measure as an excuse to impose trade or travel restrictions, which could hurt the DRC's economy and slow the flow of response resources needed to battle Ebola.

A woman walks out of a WHO medical tent where health workers check the fever of travellers coming across South Sudan's Nimule border town from Uganda on June 19, 2019, following recent deaths from Ebola in Uganda. Wednesday's declaration was sparked by confirmation of a case in Goma, a Congo city of more than two million people on the border with Rwanda.

World Vision's DRC director, Anne-Marie Connor, said that she was comforted by the fact that the victim, and those who had travelled with him, had been quickly identified.

Future emergency declarations might be perceived as punishment and "might result in other countries not reporting outbreaks in the future, which puts us all at greater risk". It's second only to the 2014-2016 epidemic in multiple West African countries that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The current outbreak is spreading in a turbulent Congo border region where dozens of rebel groups are active and where Ebola had not been experienced before. They said at the time that "the cluster of cases in Uganda is not unexpected" and determined that it did not meet the necessary criteria.

"WHO and its partners work tirelessly to ensure that all travelers are screened for Ebola" a tweet from WHO African region said. Efforts to contain the virus have been hurt by mistrust among wary locals that has prompted deadly attacks on health workers.

This is the 10th outbreak of the disease over the last four decades in the DRC.

World Health Organization says Ebola outbreak in DRC is a global emergency