UN: WHO says Ebola still a global emergency despite drop in cases

New York, US (PANA) - A meeting convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa still poses a threat to international peace and security, despite a major fall in case incidence and geographic distribution in the most-affected countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

A UN statement on Friday in New York stated that during the fifth meeting of WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, which was held on Thursday, WHO said that Ebola continued to constitute a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern", and recommended the extension of all previous temporary recommendations.

It said that the Committee reviewed developments since its last meeting on 20 January, and noted further improvements in prevention and control activities across West Africa, including in contact tracing.

It also said that WHO officials had observed declines in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the virus appeared to have reduced its spread.

"These three IHR States Parties provided updates and assessment of the Ebola outbreak, in terms of the epidemiological situation and the status and performance of exit screening and contact tracing," the statement said.

The Committee said it recognized the progress achieved by all three countries, but emphasized that there was no place for complacency, and reinforced the importance of community engagement in the UN-backed goal of "getting to zero".

It said the rapid interruption of transmission remained its primary goal, but expressed continued concern over recent health care worker infections and reaffirmed the importance of rigorously applying appropriate prevention and control measures.

It said that a recent case of possible infection after sexual contact with an Ebola survivor months after recovery became the focus of a discussion on sexual transmission, while it welcomed ongoing research in this area and urging its acceleration.

The statement also voiced concern over additional health measures, such as quarantining returning travellers, refusing entry, cancelling flights and closing borders – as significantly interfering with international travel and negatively impacting both response and recovery efforts.

It said although reports that some countries had recently rescinded these measures and certain regional airlines resumed flights to affected countries, about 40 nations still implemented the additional procedures and a number of carriers had yet to resume flights to these States.

Concluding that Ebola continued to be a Public Health Emergency, the Committee recommended that previous temporary recommendations be extended and provided additional advice to the WHO Director-General in accordance with the IHR.

The statement strongly reiterated the need for continued exit screenings in the three affected countries, which must be maintained for at least 42 days after the last case had twice tested negative for Ebola.

It recommended that, "the affected nations maintain exit screening until human-to-human transmission has stopped in the entire sub-region", and urged the countries to provide WHO, on a monthly basis, with the number of people screened at international airports and the results of such screening.

The Committee also reemphasized active surveillance, particularly in border areas, in addition to vigilance for new cases, tracing of known contacts and cross-border cooperation to share information and assets.

It further highlighted that social and cultural links, which crossed national boundaries, must be taken into account when planning and implementing such activities.
-0- PANA AA/MA 10April2015

10 april 2015 21:16:45

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