Congo’s Ebola outbreak to worsen without stepped-up response: WHO committee

GENEVA (Reuters) – The Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to worsen significantly unless the response to it is stepped up, a World Health Organization committee said on Wednesday.

However, it does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the emergency committee said.

There have been 139 deaths and 215 probable and confirmed cases in the outbreak, which was declared on Aug. 1. The WHO has said it could spread at any time to Uganda or Rwanda, although both countries were well prepared.

“We do have some optimism that this outbreak will be brought under control in a reasonable time,” the committee chairman Robert Steffen told a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Declaring a PHEIC, the first since the Latin American Zika virus outbreak in February 2016, might have ramped up the pace of the response, but Steffen said there were also disadvantages, such as travel and transport restrictions.

The committee said it was particularly important that no such restrictions were imposed.

Steffen said the outbreak was being tackled with a strong response. It was “pretty much mitigated” in one northeastern province but “pretty much flaring up” in another.

Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by John Stonestreet

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