After two days of meetings, the emergency committee of the World Health Organisation unanimously agreed to declare the ebola virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Friday. The WHO, which is an agency of the United Nations, also deemed ebola an “extraordinary event” that should be confronted with “a coordinated international response” to stop the spread of the disease.
“The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries,” a WHO statement said.
According to the WHO, the current ebola outbreak began in Guinea last December and has since spread to Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. As of Aug. 4, the WHO statement said there have been 1,711 reported cases of the disease, over 1,000 of which have been confirmed, and 932 deaths due to the virus.
In addition to officially designating ebola a global health emergency, the WHO published a list of recommendations for governments in affected countries. Among other things, the organisation called for temporary bans on “mass gatherings” and exit screenings at airports to check people leaving countries hit by the virus. Experts have said the WHO’s Public Health Emergency of International Concern designation for ebola would pave the way for an international response that potentially includes the mobilization of NATO troops.
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