Global risk of Ebola spread lessened

Apr 10, 2015, 3:01 PM EDT
Sierra Leone health officials check passengers transiting at the border crossing with Liberia in Jendema on March 28, 2015.
ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images

Ebola rages on in some Western African countries, but the World Health Organization has said that the international concern for its spreading to other countries is lessened. Affected countries are seeing some successes in stemming the virus. Reuters reports:

The U.N. agency declared in August 2014 that the world's worst Ebola outbreak, which began in December 2013, represented a "public health emergency of international concern" that forced health officials worldwide to shore up defenses.
 
The WHO's Emergency Committee, comprising independent experts who conferred on Thursday, was "absolutely firm" in maintaining that view, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO Special Representative for the Ebola Response.
 
In a statement, the Committee said that due to better prevention and control activities across West Africa, "the overall risk of international spread appears to have further reduced since January with a decline in case incidence and geographic distribution in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea."
 
 
Officials announced they are attempting to set up clinics in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to monitor the health consequences Ebola survivors face.
At the peak last year, hundreds of new cases were being reported every week. In an update this week, WHO reported there were 30 confirmed cases last week in Guinea and Sierra Leone; the last case in Liberia died on March 27.
 
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading WHO's Ebola response, said the decline appeared to be real, rather than just "a pothole on the bumpy road to get to zero cases."
 
During a press briefing in Geneva on Friday, Aylward said WHO's Ebola emergency committee believes the risk of the virus spreading globally appears to be dropping even though officials still don't know where the virus is spreading in most cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
 
"We are still not controlling the epidemic," said Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors Without Borders, who noted past lulls in the outbreak have often been followed by surges in cases. He said the designation of Ebola as a global emergency is also necessary to speed up paperwork for the ongoing experimental drug and vaccine trials in West Africa.

 

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