In October, the emergency committee determined that it was particularly important that no international travel or trade restrictions be applied and neighboring countries accelerate their preparedness and surveillance.
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Over the weekend and through today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC’s) health ministry reported 22 more cases, many from the current hot spot Katwa, but seven other areas also reported new cases.
Of the 22 new cases, the health ministry announced 11 of them in its update today. Among those lab-confirmed cases, 10 are in Katwa, with the following areas also reporting cases: Kyondo (4), Butembo (2), Kalunguta (2), Mabalako (1), Mangurujipa (1), Mutwanga (1), and Vuhovi (1). The increase lifts the outbreak’s overall total to 785 cases, 731 of them confirmed and 54 listed as probable.
An international group of public health experts on Monday called on the World Health Organization to convene an emergency committee to consider declaring Congo’s Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency.
The group of experts wrote in the Lancet that such a call would help galvanize “high-level political, financial and technical support to address the Ebola outbreak that started last May.”
The outbreak, declared just over six months ago in Congo’s east, is the country’s tenth and the world’s second-largest recorded. Instability, dense populations, political instability and mass displacement have contributed to the spread of the disease.
“The epidemic is not under control and has a high risk of spread to the region, perhaps globally,” said lead author Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
The experts pointed specifically to concerns of Ebola spreading to nearby countries such as South Sudan, which they say is among the most fragile states in the world with far less capacity to control an Ebola outbreak.
“Taking bold measures to prevent the spread of the disease in this country where violence is prevalent and a famine is predicted, is critical to preventing a humanitarian disaster,” Gostin said.
The World Health Organization on Monday responded that the WHO and its partners in Congo and neighboring countries continue to closely monitor the situation for signs that an expert committee meeting would be needed.
Despite their call Monday, however, the group of experts also warned that a declaration of an international public health emergency may also have negative consequences, such as a ban on trade or travel barriers in Congo. So it also called on the WHO and United Nations to “take active steps to prevent unlawful and harmful restrictions including calling out countries that violate laws designed to prevent this sort of unwarranted action,” according to Gostin.