Health experts to WHO: Congo's Ebola should be an international public health emergency

The World Health Organization should declare the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency, a group of health experts wrote in an article published Feb. 4 in The Lancet.

The WHO's emergency committee convened in October and ruled the ongoing Ebola outbreak was not yet a "public health emergency of international concern," or PHEIC. Health experts across the globe are urging the WHO committee to reconvene as Ebola cases continue to rise in Congo. As of Jan. 31, health officials reported 759 confirmed and probable Ebola cases, along with 468 deaths.

"The outbreak remains far from controlled, risking a long-term epidemic with regional, perhaps global, impacts," health experts wrote. "We call upon the WHO Director-General to reconvene the [emergency committee] to review the grounds for a PHEIC declaration."

They said a PHEIC declaration would spur "high-level political, financial and technical support" to address the outbreak, which started in August. Health experts also recommended WHO limit travel and trade restrictions, which are often implemented during a PHEIC, that could potentially hinder Ebola response efforts.

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