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The World Health Organization (WHO) today declared that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which surfaced in August 2018, is an international emergency. The declaration raises the outbreak’s visibility and public health officials hope it will galvanize the international community to fight the spread of the frequently fatal disease.
“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our effort,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “We all owe it to [current] responders … to shoulder more of the burden.”
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As of today, Ebola has infected more than 2500 people in the DRC during the new outbreak, killing more than 1650. By calling the current situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, has placed it in a rare category that includes 2009 flu pandemic, the Zika epidemic of 2016 and the 2-year Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa before it ended in 2016.
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The declaration does not legally compel member states to do anything. “But it sounds a global alert,” says Lawrence Gostin, a global health lawyer at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. During the West African epidemic, for instance, the U.S. Congress supplied $5.4 billion in the months after WHO’s emergency declaration.
Emergency - Officials - Reactions - DRC - Economy
Even as they declared the emergency, WHO officials attempted to tamp down reactions they said could harm both the DRC’s economy and efforts to stop the outbreak. “This is still a regional emergency and [in] no way a global threat,” said Robert Steffen, the chair of the emergency committee that recommended the PHEIC designation and an epidemiologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, during a press teleconference today. He added in a written statement:...
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