WHO Declares The Ebola Outbreak An International Public Health Emergency

Red Cross workers carry the body of a woman who died of the Ebola virus during a 1995 outbreak in the Congo. Photo: Getty (File)

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has now killed almost a thousand people, an international public health emergency that requires resources from around the world to combat its spread.

“Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan said at a news conference in Geneva. “I urge the international community to provide this support on the most urgent basis possible.”

The announcement came after a meeting of experts in Geneva this week. The UN health agency said the outbreak was “particularly serious” because of the way the virus was spreading, according to the BBC.

While the implications of the WHO’s declaration are unclear, it is likely to draw international attention to the crisis and help muster resources to combat the spread of the disease.

The current outbreak, which started in Guinea, is the biggest-ever recorded. While it has a lower mortality rate than those seen in previous outbreaks, it is still lethal in more than 50% of cases. So far, more than 930 people have died. It has spread to Sierra Leone and Guinea, and now to Nigeria, where the government has already declared a health emergency.

Liberia’s health system is at breaking point trying to contain the disease, which is spread through human contact. There are reports that health centres treating patients have been abandoned by staff who are too afraid to turn up for work.

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