World Health Organization convenes emergency meeting on DRC's Ebola outbreak

JOHN WESSELS via Getty Images

JOHN WESSELS via Getty Images

The World Health Organisation says it is convening a meeting on Wednesday to determine whether Democratic Republic of Congo's latest Ebola outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of global concern.

"Based on the current context... the committee recommended that the current Ebola outbreak in DRC does not constitute a public health emergency of global concern", said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A WHO declaration of a so-called public health emergency of worldwide concern (PHEIC) would have aimed to draw the world's attention and hopefully elicit a greater worldwide response to a health crisis with global implications.

The WHO's emergency committee decided that the outbreak was very concerning for the region, but not of wider worldwide concern, committee Chairman Dr. Robert Steffen said Wednesday in Geneva.

- Over within the year?

Robert Steffen, Chair of the Emergency Committee, also voiced "some optimism" that the outbreak would be brought under control within a "reasonable time".

Jeremy Farrar, who heads Wellcome Trust in London, issued a statement that a spokesperson said emphasizes the seriousness of the situation without questioning the committee's conclusion.

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The four-hour teleconference expressed deep concern about the Ebola outbreak that's killed 139 people in the DRC.

According to World Health Organization, a total of 216 cases have been registered as part of the latest outbreak, including 139 deaths.

The violence is complicating the response, and making it hard to track contacts of those infected with the highly contagious virus.

It's nevertheless warning nine of the Congo's eleven neighbours that they are at high risk of the deadly haemorrhagic disease spreading across the borders.

The DRC outbreak location borders both Uganda and Rwanda.

More than 18,000 people have received an experimental Ebola vaccine during this outbreak under what's known as a ring vaccination strategy in which only those likely to come in contact with cases are inoculated. "We believe the vaccine is working", Tedros said, but there has not yet been any formal evaluation.

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