WHO: Ebola Outbreak a 'Public Health Emergency'
(HealthDay News) — The World Health Organization on Friday declared the outbreak of deadly Ebola virus in West Africa a "public health emergency."
The outbreak, which has already claimed 961 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, "constitutes an 'extraordinary event' and a public health risk to other States," WHO said in a statement. The declaration was based on the unanimous decision of an Emergency Committee meeting convened this week.
"A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola," the organization said. Experts pointed to several ominous factors, such as the emergence of cases of Ebola in densely populated cities; cases arising among health care workers that suggest "inadequate infection control practices;" and generally "fragile" health care systems. WHO now recommends that each of the countries affected by the outbreak declare a national emergency, clearly inform the public of the situation, and ramp up efforts to limit transmission of the virus.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its response to the Ebola outbreak to its highest alert status. The move allows the CDC to expand its role in fighting the growing public health crisis, which gained new urgency as cases of the deadly infection began to be reported in populous Nigeria. CDC's Clinical Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) has compiled clinical resource links, including "Interim Guidance for Monitoring and Movement of Persons with Ebola Virus Disease Exposure."