WHO: Ebola ‘an international emergency’

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of Ebola in West Africa an international health emergency.

WHO officials said a coordinated international response was essential to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.

The announcement came after experts convened a two-day emergency meeting in Switzerland.

So far more than 960 people have died from Ebola in West Africa this year.

The United Nations health agency said the outbreak was an “extraordinary event”.

“The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus,” it said in a statement.

Complex outbreak

More than 1,700 cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan appealed for help for the countries hit by the “most complex outbreak in the four decades of this disease”.

She said there would be no general ban on international travel or trade.

Guinean Ebola survivor

A fifth year medical student in Guinea tells the BBC French Service about how she is being shunned since recovering from Ebola which she caught whilst working as an intern at a clinic in March:

We are stigmatised – you know when they look at us like that, even in my own family people are rejecting me. I live with my uncle – my parents are in the village. In the house I eat alone. I feel lonely.

When I felt better, I started going back to medical school. Many distanced themselves from me. Four of us used to sit together, but I ended up sitting by myself.

The treatment centre gave me a certificate showing I had been healed. I showed it to my teachers as I’d missed some assessments while sick. But I haven’t done the two exams. The head of department told me to stay at home and get treated. I can’t even get an internship.

However, states should be prepared to detect, investigate and manage Ebola cases, including at airports, she said.

Other recommendations include:

  • Good surveillance to pick up potential cases
  • Giving people in affected countries up-to-date information on risks
  • Effective measures to manage risks to healthcare workers.

There were a number of challenges in affected countries, said the WHO. These include “very weak health system capacity” and lack of medical staff, laboratory technicians and protective clothing.

States of emergency are in effect in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.



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