WHO: Ebola outbreak a 'public health emergency'

The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been declared a "public health emergency" by the World Health Organization.
By JC Finley  |  Aug. 8, 2014 at 11:57 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization convened its first Emergency Committee meeting in response to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

Following the two-day teleconference, the Committee concluded "that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have been met."

The outbreak began in March and, as of August 4, WHO has recorded 1,711 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola, including 932 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

"This is currently the largest EVD outbreak ever recorded," the Committee observed.

In response to the declared "public health emergency," the Committee issued guidance to countries with Ebola transmission, advising heads of state to declare national emergencies and instruct health ministers to take the lead coordinating and implementing emergency Ebola response measures.

The Committee called on affected countries to ensure that a medical supply pipeline provides personal protective equipment (PPE) to those in need, especially medical workers, cleaning staff and burial personnel, and that health care workers' security, safety and payment are ensured.

At international airports, seaports and major land crossings, the Committee advised the following exit screening procedures:

-- At a minimum, conduct a questionnaire, measure temperature; -- If fever, assess whether caused by Ebola. Prevent travel of persons whose illness is consistent with Ebola, unless authorized for medical evacuation; -- Prevent international travel of Ebola contacts or cases, unless authorized for medical evacuation; -- If confirmed Ebola case, individual should be isolated and treated at an Ebola Treatment Center with no international travel until 2 Ebola-specific diagnostic tests conducted at least 48 hours apart are negative; -- If Ebola contact, monitor daily with no international travel and restricted national travel until 21 days after exposure; -- If probable or suspected Ebola case, individual should be isolated and travel restricted according to whether deemed a confirmed case or contact. -- Countries should ensure appropriate medical care is available to airline crews and staff operating in affected countries and establish communication procedures for tracing passenger locator records.

WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan accepted the Committee's declaration of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern."

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