Ebola outbreak alarming, but not yet a 'global health threat,' WHO says

Ebola in Congo

Ebola in Congo

An announcement is expected Friday evening.

World Health Organization officials added that, since Nov 7, Uganda has vaccinated 4,699 healthcare and frontline workers as part of its Ebola preparedness activities and noted that nine Ebola treatment units are in place in districts that border the DRC's Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

While Ugandan authorities praise the health workers as "heroes" and say they are prepared to contain the virus, some workers disagree, wondering where the millions of dollars spent on preparing for Ebola have gone if a hospital on the front line lacks basic supplies.

Health workers in this outbreak now have the benefit of an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine that is being widely used, with more than 130,000 doses distributed. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward.

The WHO panel has used the label "public health emergency of global concern" for only four previous epidemics.

To classify the outbreak as a global emergency, the outbreak must contribute a potential risk to other countries, upon which it would require coordinated support from worldwide entities.

Issuing a number of recommendations, Aavitsland said the emergency committee strongly advises against imposing any worldwide travel or trade restrictions.

In addition, he said, voluntary health teams screening for Ebola on the border have gone unpaid for about four months.

Tedros is in Kinshasa today meeting with top officials in the DRC and will next visit the outbreak region before traveling on to Uganda to assess the latest developments.

Five family members who entered the country with the victims have been repatriated to the Congo, where they have five family members who have been confirmed to be infected, the ministry said.

While the worldwide body has declared four global health emergencies before, including the swine flu outbreak in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2014 and zika virus in 2016, this is the third time it declined to declare the Ebola outbreak in Congo as a public health emergency. The committee "extensively debated" the question, Aavitsland said.

Aavitsland said committee members are deeply disappointed that the World Health Organization and its response partners haven't received enough funding and resources to battle Ebola.

The committee expressed its deep concern about the ongoing Ebola outbreak, which, despite some positive epidemiological trends, shows that the extension and reinfection in areas like Mabalako presents challenges around community acceptance and security.

The epidemic is occurring in northeastern DRC, in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which hug the country's borders with South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda. It is transmitted through contact with body fluid from an infected person.

The early symptoms of the virus include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat and can often be mistaken for a number of other illnesses. It can cause massive internal bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea and death.