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Ebola still a Public Health Emergency of International Concern: IHR Emergency Committee

Statement issued after the 5th meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The fifth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa was conducted with members and advisors of the Emergency Committee on Thursday, 9 April 2015.

The main issues considered were: ‘does the event continue to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ and, if so, ‘should the current temporary recommendations be extended, revised, and/or new temporary recommendations issued.’

The Committee reviewed developments since the previous meeting on 20th January 2015, including the current epidemiological situation. The Committee noted that as a result of further improvements in EVD prevention and control activities across West Africa, including in the area of contact tracing, the overall risk of international spread appears to have further reduced since January with a decline in case incidence and geographic distribution in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. These three IHR States Parties provided updates and assessment of the Ebola outbreak, in terms of the epidemiological situation and the status and performance of exit screening and contact tracing.

The Committee recognized the progress achieved by all three countries and emphasized that there was no place for complacency, the primary goal remaining the interruption of transmission as rapidly as possible. The Committee reinforced the importance of community engagement in ‘getting to zero’. The Committee expressed its continued concern about the recent infection of health care workers and reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the rigourous application of appropriate infection prevention and control measures.

The Committee discussed the issue of probable sexual transmission of EVD, particularly the recent case who is likely to have been infected following sexual contact involving an Ebola survivor some months after his recovery. The Committee welcomed the ongoing programme of research underway in this area and urged its acceleration as a priority.

The Committee discussed the issue of inappropriate health measures that go beyond those in the temporary recommendations issued to date. The Committee was very concerned that additional health measures, such as quarantine of returning travellers, refusal of entry, cancellation of flights and border closures significantly interfere with international travel and transport and negatively impact both the response and recovery efforts. Although some countries are reported to have recently rescinded these additional health measures, and some regional airlines have resumed flights to affected countries, about 40 countries are still implementing additional measures and a number of airlines have not resumed flights to these countries.

The Committee concluded that the event continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and recommended that all previous temporary recommendations should be extended.

Source: World Health Organization

•Date: 13th April 2015 • Afirca / World •Type: Article • Topic:: Pandemic planning


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