The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has not turned into a public health emergency of international concern, despite rising cases of infection for the past weeks.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convened a meeting on Friday of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which concluded that the disease does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
However, the committee expressed their deep concern about the recent increase in transmission in specific areas, and therefore the potential risk of spreading to neighboring countries.
It advises to redouble efforts to detect cases as early as possible, identify and follow up all contacts, ensure the highest level of coverage vaccination of all contacts and contacts of contacts. It emphasizes, in particular, that special efforts are needed to address the rise in case numbers in the remaining epicenters, notably Butembo, Katwa, Vuhovi, and Mandima in the DRC.
The WHO said Thursday that rise in number of Ebola cases observed in the North Kivu provinces of the DRC continued this week. As of Tuesday, a total of 1,186 confirmed and probable Ebola cases had been reported, of which 751 died, making it the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history.
The WHO committee also warned of a very high risk of regional spread and advised the DRC's neighboring countries to continue to accelerate current preparedness and surveillance efforts, including vaccination of health care workers and front-line workers in surrounding countries.
Although the WHO has been calling for strengthened cross-border collaboration between the DRC and neighboring countries, it maintains its previous advice that no international travel or trade restrictions should be applied.
As of Thursday, the WHO has maintained its last assessment that the national and regional risk levels posed by the DRC Ebola outbreak remain very high, while global risk levels remain low.
While there is no need to declaring a PHEIC at this stage, the committee also revealed its concern about current levels of transmission which requires close attention to the evolving situation.