|Credit @WHO Twitter Feed|
In a press conference (which is still ongoing) the WHO's IHR Committee has announced their decision not to designate the Ebola outbreak in the DRC as a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern).
Meetings have been convened several times in the past for both MERS-CoV and Yellow Fever, but only 3 other PHEICs have been declared to date:
The bar for declaring a PHEIC is purposefully set pretty high, as invoking one does have some down sides, particularly in regards to travel and trade for an affected region.
That said, this decision is going to be disappointing to many observers, who see the situation worsening on the ground in the DRC.While there will be more details emerging on this decision, the WHO has emailed out the following statement (the link provided doesn't currently work for me).
Statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 12th April 2019
The meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo took place on Friday, 12th April, 2019, from 13:00 to 17:20 Geneva time (CET). Key Findings:
It was the view of the Committee the ongoing Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). However, the Committee wished to express their deep concern about the recent increase in transmission in specific areas, and therefore the potential risk of spread to neighbouring countries.
The Committee also wishes to commend the efforts of responders from the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization and partners to contain the outbreak in a complex and difficult setting.
Additionally, the Committee has provided the following public health advice:
(Continue . . . )
- The committee advises to redouble efforts to detect cases as early as possible, identify and follow up all contacts, ensure the highest level of coverage vaccination of all contacts and contacts of contacts.
- Sustained efforts must be made to prevent nosocomial transmission and to shorten time between onset of disease and access to high standards of care and therapeutics at Ebola treatment units.
- Special emphasis should be placed on addressing the rise in case numbers in the remaining epicentres, notably Butembo, Katwa, Vuhovi, and Mandima.
- The Committee advises WHO and all partners to identify, target, and scale up community dialogue and participation, engagement of traditional healers, and other community engagement tactics to strengthen and broaden community acceptance.
- The Committee also noted the need to follow the recommendations of SAGE with regards to the vaccination strategy provided at its latest meeting.
- The safety of responders should be prioritized, while avoiding the securitization of the response.
- Because there is a very high risk of regional spread, neighbouring countries should continue to accelerate current preparedness and surveillance efforts, including vaccination of health care workers and front-line workers in surrounding countries.
- Cross-border collaboration should continue to be strengthened, including timely sharing of data and alerts, cross-border community engagement and awareness raising. In addition, work should be done to better map population movements and understand social networks bridging national boundaries.
- The Committee maintains its previous advice that it is particularly important that no international travel or trade restrictions should be applied. Exit screening, including at airports, ports, and land crossings, is of great importance; however, entry screening, particularly in distant airports, is not considered to be of any public health or cost-benefit value.
- The committee strongly emphasized the critical need to strengthen currents efforts in both preparedness and response. This will require substantial, immediate and sustained additional financial support.
- While there is no added benefit to declaring a PHEIC at this stage, there was concern about current levels of transmission requiring close attention to the evolving situation. The committee advised the WHO Director General to continue to monitor the situation closely and reconvene the Emergency Committee as needed.