In April, we pointed out that over the prior months, many public health experts had claimed the deadly Ebola virus outbreak that has been ravaging the Congo will not become a global health threat, despite recent events painting a much less optimistic picture. We also warned that despite people in the West often thinking of Ebola as a disease that only strikes “superstitious locals” in the deepest jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are now pressing warning signs and it’s time to start paying attention.
According to Reuters, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now preparing to declare an “international emergency” over the latest Ebola epidemic fast spreading through central Africa.
Image source: AP
The deadly disease, which can take just days to kill an infected person, has now jumped from the Democratic Republic of Congo where the newest outbreak was first documented, to neighboring Uganda.
The number of total confirmed cases is reported as follows:
Congo’s epidemic is the second worst worldwide since West Africa’s Ebola outbreak in 2014-16, with 2,084 cases and 1,405 deaths since being declared in August. The WHO said on Thursday that two people had died in Uganda having arrived with the disease from Congo.
Despite hopefulness that the virus can be contained in Uganda, given so far there’s been no known human-to-human cases of its spreading inside Uganda, health officials are still urging the WHO to quickly move forward with a global emergency declaration.
The WHO’s Emergency Committee (EC) reportedly met Friday to evaluate whether the epidemic constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) amid growing pressure to immediately make the declaration.
Reuters reports further of the outbreak:
The WHO, in a statement overnight, said that given all three confirmed cases in Uganda belong to a single family cluster, the level of preparedness and experience of Ugandan authorities to manage previous Ebola outbreaks, and their rapid detection of cases in a limited geographical area, “the overall level of risk at national level is assessed as moderate”.
“However, the overall regional risk posed by the outbreak in DRC remains very high. The overall risk at international level remains low,” it said.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global medical charity, said the WHO should declare a public health emergency of international concern.
Such a declaration would in addition to mobilizing greater international aid and public health measures, result in greater attention to travel and crucial international points of entry.
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Concerning the 2014 Ebola outbreak which made it to America’s shores, we recently recounted the following in 5 Alarming Reasons Americans Need to Pay Attention to Ebola Right Now: It ripped through West Africa for two years, killing over 11,000 people and sickening nearly 30,000. But the reason WE remember it in the United States is that it crept into our country.
Shortly after the CDC warned us to prepare for a potential Ebola pandemic, the first case was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas, when a man from West Africa visited the hospital on two occasions, having been turned away the first time as just having “the flu.” The original patient died, and two nurses caring for him caught the potentially deadly virus. One patient completely overwhelmed an entire hospital.
It is honestly shocking that more people didn’t become ill, as one nurse traveled on a plane while sick, and in another incident, a doctor in New York City who had volunteered in Guinea was also diagnosed. All in all, eleven people in the United States were treated for Ebola (that we know of, anyway) and it certainly wasn’t because of the expert handling of the near-crisis. It was pure luck.
There were all sorts of mismanagement. Everything from not requiring a quarantine of travelers returning from the affected area to housing 11 potential cases in a hotel to a ship from Liberia with sick passengers being allowed to dock in New Orleans to the near-disastrous handling of contaminated samples in Dallas, it is an absolute miracle that there was no major outbreak in the US.
If there were hundreds or thousands of patients across the country, it wouldn’t take long for things to devolve into absolute chaos. Ebola can have a death rate as high as 90%.