On New Year’s Eve reports began to emerge that several ISIS fighters in Mosul, Iraq had contracted (and died from) Ebola. Soon even major media outlets were carrying the story, with some even speculating that ISIS might be experimenting with biological weapons.
As you might imagine, this caused quite a stir, even though there didn’t seem to be any real evidence to back up these reports.
Today the World Health Organization has emailed out the following statement, stating that their investigation showed these reports to be unfounded.
NO EBOLA CASES DETECTED IN IRAQ
Baghdad, Iraq (05 January, 2015) - The Ministry of Health in Iraq, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), confirms that there is no suspected case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Iraq as of January 5th 2015.
On 31 December, 2014, Al-Sabah newspaper, Shafaq news agency and Rudaw online newspaper reported a rumor of EVD cases in Mosul, Ninewa governorate. The news was also relayed through other media agencies in and outside of Iraq.
Following this rumor, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization investigated the allegations through existing surveillance networks, as well as through contacts with health authorities and medical sources in Ibn Sina Hospital in Mosul. All sources contacted have negated the existence of any suspected cases of Ebola. The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization further confirmed that the laboratory facilities in Mosul do not have the necessary capabilities to diagnose and confirm the Ebola Virus.
The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization remain vigilant and have scaled up surveillance efforts to ensure early detection and safe management of any eventual suspected EVD cases in the country. All necessary precautionary measures are being taken to ensure that effective preventive programmes are in place and that the people of Iraq are provided with all affordable support in case any EVD case is detected. The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health have taken the following actions:
- Assessments of international entry points have been conducted jointly between the Ministry of Health, WHO experts and Health Cluster partners. It included international crossings and entry points like the International airports and ports.
- The Ministry of Health together with WHO are finalizing the implementation of the assessment mission’s recommendations with a focus on strengthening the EBV preparedness and readiness measures.
- The surveillance efforts have been scaled up at all health facilities to ensure that any imported or suspected cases are promptly detected.
- A contingency and response plan is currently under development.
- Instructions have been issued to all governorate Directorates of Health (DOH) to be vigilant at points of entry.
- Regular information exchange between WHO and MOH on the status of the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and in other affected countries is on-going.
- Recommendations were made to DOHs and other health authorities to reactivate taskforces at the Governorate levels for any eventualities.
- Communication materials and awareness raising messages were developed, and will be disseminated to all local media outlets and channels.