3. Ebola warning intensifies
The World Health Organization Wednesday issued a global health warning on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although it added that the risk of the deadly virus spreading outside the region remains low, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.
Why it matters: The official intensification of the warning is partly due to the geographical expansion of cases, including at least one in the large, international city of Goma, plus renewed violence against health care workers that killed 2 recently.
- The move is expected to spur WHO's 196 members to offer more resources and better organize an international response to this outbreak.
Between the lines: The declaration of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) will not immediately change anything on the ground, says Julie Fischer, co-director of Georgetown University's Center for Global Health Science and Security. But she says it could lead to much-needed funding and the possible creation of a new UN body to coordinate international responses.
Details, per WHO's press conference:
- There's alarm because the outbreak now has a geographic reach of roughly 500 km, says Robert Steffen, chair of the WHO's Ebola emergency committee. Beni, a city in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, remains the epicenter, with 46% of the cases over the last 3 weeks.
- The committee recommended that borders with neighboring countries or other countries should not be closed at this time, as this could have negative consequences, Steffen said.
Meanwhile, concern over the amount of available vaccines grows, despite the DRC recently agreeing to use half-doses of the current Merck vaccine (the only experimental vaccine currently allowed in DRC).
Go deeper: Read Eileen's full story.