Why Congo's latest Ebola outbreak is worrying

FILE A health worker prepares a vaccination at a health center in Conakry during the first clinical trials of the VSV-EBOV vaccine against the Ebola virus

WHO declared a public health emergency of global concern for an Ebola in August 2014 for the outbreak in West Africa that claimed 11,000 lives and was later determined to be the deadliest such outbreak.

This Ebola outbreak, the seventh largest in history, with 216 cases and 139 dead since July, has seen a sharp uptick in cases in the last few days after response efforts were limited by rebel violence, political instability and community resistance.

Uganda is at "big risk" of the spread of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak from neighbouring Congo, a senior health official said Thursday, even as he said the situation is "being handled well" there.

Steffen said that if Ebola were to spread beyond the borders of Congo, the emergency committee might revise its decision and declare instead that the outbreak is a public health emergency of worldwide concern.

Public health emergencies were declared for the H1 N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009, the polio that re-emerged with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Zika fever outbreak in 2016.

"The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, WHO, and partners must intensify the current response".

Congo's health minister, Oly Ilunga, told the BBC ahead of the meeting that his country didn't want the declaration, saying that "I think the situation is quite under control".

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The DRC's health ministry reported 4 new cases, 3 of which are in the latest epicenter of Beni. She said shutting down an Ebola outbreak often requires that aid workers convince people to avoid risky behaviors like traditional burial practices and poor infection control.

"Declaring this could have released more resources, including finance, healthcare workers, enhanced security and infrastructure - as well as more global political support", he said in a statement.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, said Wednesday that the committee's decision was backed by "good reasons".

"We will not rest until the outbreak is finished".

"However, not so far a single case has been exported", said Robert Steffen, the head of the WHO's emergency advisory committee.

The agency also declared a public health emergency of worldwide concern in February 2016 over the Zika virus.

The use of an experimental vaccine is also promising, with more than 18,000 people having received the jab to date, World Health Organization said.

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