The World Health Organization panel has decided not to declare an international emergency regarding the Ebola outbreak in Congo despite its spread to Uganda this week, concluding that such a declaration could cause too much economic loss.
The Congo epidemic is the second worst, with 2108 cases of Ebola and 1411 deaths since last August. This week it reached Uganda, where three cases were recorded, all of them arriving from Congo. Two of them died.
In a statement, a panel of 13 independent medical experts at the WHO Emergency Committee urged neighboring countries "at risk" to increase their readiness to detect and manage cases of imports, "as Uganda has done".
"This is not a global emergency, this is an emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a severe emergency and may affect neighboring countries," Dr. Preben Aavitsland, chairman of the panel board at a press conference at the headquarters of the UN agency in Geneva. .
"It is the Committee's view that there is no benefit in declaring PHEIC (International Public Health Concern), but there is a lot of potential loss."
Such a declaration would risk creating travel or trade restrictions "which can be very damaging to the economy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," Aavitsland said.
The Ugandan authorities have now compiled a list of 98 contacts, or contact contacts, who are potentially affected by the Ebola virus, of whom 10 are considered "high risk," said Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of the emergency program. Vaccination of contacts and health workers with Merck's experimental vaccine will begin on Saturday, he said.
Some medical groups urged the committee to declare an emergency that would encourage increased public health actions, funding and resources.
Only four emergencies have been declared in the past decade, including the worst Ebola outbreak that has hit West Africa in 2014-2016. The other is the influenza pandemic in 2009, polio in 2014 and the Zika virus in 2016.
Australian Associated Press