18 June 2019

Nigeria: WHO Raises the Alarm Over Spread of Ebola

Photo: John Wessels
(file photo)

Lagos — The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised the alarm over the escalation of Ebola disease. It noted that despite the positive epidemiological trends in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda, it presents serious threat to the neighbouring countries.

The WHO Secretariat, which yesterday gave an update on the current situation of Ebola in DRC and Uganda, said that the risk assessment for DRC remains very high at national and regional levels but low at global level.

On the outcome of the meeting of the emergency committee convened by the WHO director-general held last weekend, the global health agency said that "risk in Uganda remains moderate at the national level and low at regional. The high risks of the Uganda event have been mitigated by rapid communication and coordination among authorities across jurisdictions; detection at points of entry and subsequent response activities; and operational preparedness and readiness in Uganda.

"There has been an overall decline in case incidence in the last five weeks, but substantial rates of transmission continues, especially in a few hotspots," it added.

WHO further said that the response continued to be hampered by a lack of adequate funding and strained human resources.

According to the WHO statement, "less than one-third of the resources needed are available, adding that at present there is a funding shortfall of $54 million against $98 million needed for the response through July 2019.

It urged the international community to step up funding and support the strengthening of preparedness and response in DRC and the neighbouring countries.

In the same vein, the statement from the Emergency Committee for Ebola virus revealed that the cluster of cases in Uganda was not unexpected as the rapid response and initial containment was a testament to the importance of preparedness in neighbouring countries.

It said: "The exportation of cases into Uganda is a reminder that, as long as this outbreak continues in DRC, there is a risk of spread to neighbouring countries, although the risk of spread to countries outside the region remains low."

The committee, however, advised at-risk countries to improve their preparedness for detecting and managing exported cases, as Uganda had done, adding that cross-border screening in DRC should continue and its quality improved and sustained.

WHO further charged "at-risk countries should continue to map population movements and sociological patterns that can predict risk of disease spread; all priority countries should put in place approvals for investigational medicines and vaccines as an immediate priority for preparedness.

"Optimal vaccine strategies that have maximum impact on curtailing the outbreak, as recommended by WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) should be implemented rapidly and continue to strengthen community awareness, engagement, and participation," it said.

In light of the advice of the Emergency Committee, WHO however cautioned against the application of any travel or trade restrictions.

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