West Africa Ebola outbreak is no longer a global threat, WHO says
West Africa’s Ebola outbreak no longer constitutes a threat to international public heath, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday (March 29), declaring an end to a nearly 20-month emergency that has killed about 11,300 people.
“I have accepted the Committee’s advice: the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is no longer a public health emergency of international concern. However, a high level of vigilance, and response capacity, must be maintained, to ensure the ability of the countries to prevent the Ebola infections, and to rapidly detect, and respond to flare-ups in future”, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan told reporters in Geneva, following the meeting of independent experts on the outbreak, who also called for lifting any travel and trade restrictions affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“The Emergency Committee has recommended, you know, countries, you know, to immediately lift any ban on travel and trade, and so I have accepted their recommendation,” she said.
Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, has killed about 11,300 people in the three countries since emerging undetected in late 2013 in the forest of Guinea. It caused global alarm in mid-2014 – and heavy criticism of WHO, the UN health agency – as governments and aid agencies rushed to help contain the epidemic.
All original chains of virus transmission have now ended, although new clusters of infections continue to occur due to reintroductions of the virus, the WHO said in a statement.
A new chain in Guinea has infected eight people including seven who have died, WHO officials said.
Liberia closed its border with Guinea a week ago as a precaution against Ebola following five deaths at the time from the virus in Guinea.
“What’s happening right now in Guinea is a new cluster, a little outbreak, related to a re-introduction from the survivor population, so this in someway is distinct and is one of the ongoing risks that have to be managed, as the outbreak is brought to its complete conclusion,” said WHO expert Dr. Bruce Aylward.