WHO declares Ebola outbreak in DRC as a Global Health Emergency

World Health Organization (WHO) has declared deadly Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. This announcement comes after Ebola virus spread to a city of 2 million people.

Key Highlights

Meaning: Invoking the emergency provision by WHO of declaring a Public health emergency of international concern, is a rare designation which is only used for gravest epidemics. This is done when there is an extraordinary event which constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Condition: As per WHO’s international health regulations, drafted in 2005, the emergency label should apply to a situation that is an extraordinary event which poses public health risk to other countries via international spread and that potentially requires a coordinated international response.

Impact: Declaring global health emergency brings greater international attention and aid, along with concerns that nervous governments might overreact with border closures.

Reason: The year-old Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC, is 2nd deadliest on record. Although it has largely been contained to remote areas, but recently in July second week a patient was diagnosed with virus in provincial capital Goma, which became 1st case in a major urban hub. This confirmed case in Goma escalated the crisis because the city is a gateway to Africa’s Great Lakes region and wider world.

Previous Declaration: This emergency provision, activated by UN health agency have been previously invoked only four times-

  1. 2009- H1N1, or swine flu pandemic
  2. 2014- Spread of poliovirus
  3. 2014-2016- Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa. It killed more than 11,000 people.
  4. 2016- Surge of Zika virus

This is new declaration is 5th such declaration in history.

About Ebola Virus

It is highly contagious. It has an average fatality rate of around 50%.

Transmission: It is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads among people via close contact with blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

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