And on Wednesday, almost a year after the outbreak began, and in the midst of renewed concerns over its spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a public-health emergency of global concern.
An emergency committee of experts convened by the WHO, the global health arm of the United Nations, recommended the declaration after meeting in Geneva on Wednesday to reassess whether the current epidemic constitutes a "public health emergency of worldwide concern", a designation that often mobilizes more resources and commands global attention.
The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in the DRC, the fourth of its kind since the outbreak was declared on August 1 of 2018.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had accepted the recommendations of a committee of worldwide experts which stressed there should be no restrictions on travel or trade, and no entry screening of passengers at ports or airports outside the immediate region.
Future emergency declarations might be perceived as punishment and "might result in other countries not reporting outbreaks in the future, which puts us all at greater risk". Only four such declarations have been made in the past. They said at the time that "the cluster of cases in Uganda is not unexpected" and determined that it did not meet the necessary criteria. The World Bank in May also pledged to release an additional $10 million from its Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility to help with response; the WHO has to-date received $6.5 million, officials said at the press conference Wednesday. They border Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan. The attacks have led to spikes in cases and hurt the painstaking work of tracing the thousands of people who have come into contact with those infected.
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She secured just nine votes more than the 374 votes she needed to have the backing of an absolute majority of MEPs. However, speaking after the vote result, acting GUE/NGL President Martin Schirdewan was less welcoming.
WHO on Tuesday said the man had died and health workers were scrambling to trace dozens of his contacts, including those who had traveled on the same bus.
The WHO also said a Congolese fisherwoman traveled across the border to Uganda to sell fish on July 11, where she vomited numerous times before returning to Congo and dying of Ebola.
Congo's minister of health resisted the characterization of the outbreak as a health emergency. It also said screening at airports and other ports of entry outside the region is unnecessary.
Last week, the Archbishop of Congo, the Most Revd Masimango Katanda, explained that one of the problems with containing Ebola was that the crisis is in an active conflict zone (News, 12 July). "We have better public health tools than ever to respond to Ebola, including an effective vaccine", the WHO director-general said in a statement. DRC officials said that the victim was a pastor who had visited Butembo, one of the centres of the outbreak, last week. If Ebola spreads to Goma, it will pave the way for the virus to pass into the rest of DR Congo and Rwanda, and potentially other countries around the world. "Without a surge response, it will be impossible to bring the DRC Ebola epidemic under control".