NEW YORK – The Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes an “extraordinary event” and a public health risk to other nations, requiring a coordinated international response, the World Health Organization secretariat declared in a teleconference meeting of the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.
In a statement issued Friday in Geneva summarizing teleconference meetings of the committee Wednesday and Thursday, the WHO officially added Nigeria to the list of West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, previously limited to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The WHO announced that as of Aug. 4, the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak have reported 1,711 cases (1,070 confirmed, 436 probable, 205 suspect), including 932 deaths.
“This is currently the largest EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) outbreak ever recorded,” the WHO confirmed, noting the outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013.
The WHO stressed the need for more extensive travel advisories due to the “high mobility of populations and several instances of cross-border movement of travelers with infection.”
As WND reported, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Congress Thursday the Ebola outbreak is the largest of the disease ever and is developing into an international crisis that “has now come to the United States.”
In an interview last week with WND, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl admitted the risk of the virus spreading remains as long as air travel from West Africa continues.
In its statement Friday, the U.N. health agency noted “a high number of infections have been identified among health-care workers, highlighting inadequate infection control in many facilities.”
The WHO recommended that the heads of state in the affected West African nations “declare a national emergency” and personally address their respective nations to provide information on the steps being taken to address the outbreak.
“States should activate their national disaster/emergency management mechanisms and establish an emergency operation center, under the authority of the Head of State, to coordinate support across all partners, and across the information, security, finance and other relevant sectors, to ensure efficient and effective implementation and monitoring of comprehensive Ebola control measures,” the WHO advised.
The WHO recommended specific steps to contain the outbreak taken by the affected West African states, including infection prevention and control, community awareness, surveillance, accurate laboratory diagnostic testing, contact tracing and monitoring, case management and communication of timely and accurate information among countries.
The WHO urged the affected West African states to conduct exit screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings to identify travelers displaying Ebola symptoms.
“Probable and suspected cases should immediately be isolated and their travel should be restricted,” the WHO said.
The agency stopped short of recommending a general ban on international trade or travel, although it suggested such drastic measures to contain the Ebola outbreak had been considered at the meeting Wednesday.