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WHO extends international emergency over Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

The status has been in place since July 2019

GENEVA, February 12. /TASS/. The World Health Organization (WHO) has extended by another three months the current international public health emergency status for the Ebola fever outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday.

The emergency situation has been in place since July 2019.

"The Emergency Committee on Ebola has advised that the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to be a public health emergency of international concern, and I have accepted that advice," he said. "As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic."

WHO’s risk assessment is that the risk of spread is high nationally and regionally, and low globally, Ghebreyesus said, adding that the signs in the eastern DRC "are extremely positive."

"I hope that by the time the Emergency Committee reconvenes, we will be able to declare an end to the outbreak," the WHO chief said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he would travel to DRC on Thursday to discuss measures against Ebola with the country’s authorities. He also called for strengthening the health system in the country to prepare for a new possible outbreak.

As of February 9, a total of 3,431 cases of the highly lethal Ebola fever have been registered in DRC. A total of 2,249 people died and 1,164 recovered. In the week of January 29-February 4, only four new confirmed cases were reported. This is 30 times less than the number of confirmed cases during the peak of the outbreak in April 2019.

The World Health Organization describes the Ebola virus disease (EVD, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) as "a severe, often fatal illness in humans. EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%."

The virus was first recorded in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1976, with outbreaks reported in Sudan, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, Angola and Cote d’Ivoire. The latest Ebola epidemics in West Africa in 2014-2016 took the lives of more than 11,300 people, with more than 28,600 contracting the disease. The most lethal outcomes were reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.