In­ter­na­tional Health Reg­u­la­tion Emer­gency Com­mit­tee reviews Ebola out­break in West Africa

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sonam Pen­jor

The fourth meet­ing of the Emer­gency Com­mit­tee con­vened by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO) Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral un­der the In­ter­na­tional Health Reg­u­la­tions (IHR) 2005 re­gard­ing the Ebola virus dis­ease (EVD, or “Ebola”) out­break in West Africa was con­vened with mem­bers and ad­vi­sors of the Emer­gency Com­mit­tee on Tues­day, 20 Jan­uary 2015.

WHO state­ment states that, the meet­ing was con­vened to re­view, in ac­cor­dance with IHR pro­vi­sions, whether the event con­tin­ued to con­sti­tute a Pub­lic Health Emer­gency of In­ter­na­tional Con­cern and, if so, whether this war­ranted an ex­ten­sion or re­vi­sion of the three -month date of the ex­pi­ra­tion of the tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tions, which were first is­sued on 8 Au­gust 2014 and ex­tended on 22 Septem­ber 2014 and 23 Oc­to­ber 2014.

De­vel­op­ments since the Com­mit­tee’s last meet­ing were re­viewed, in­clud­ing the most re­cent epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. The Com­mit­tee noted that the num­ber of Ebola cases is de­creas­ing in all three of the most af­fected coun­tries, states the WHO state­ment.

Spain, the United States of Amer­ica and Mali, dur­ing the pre­vi­ous meet­ing, have de­clared that the end of Ebola trans­mis­sion.

WHO state­ment shows that, one case was im­ported into the United King­dom and North­ern Ire­land (UK), in a health care worker who re­turned from Sierra Leone and was asymp­to­matic on exit screen­ing and dur­ing travel; she be­came ill after her ar­rival in the UK.

The Com­mit­tee ex­pressed con­cern that ad­di­tional mea­sures af­fect­ing travel, trans­port and trade that go beyond the tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tions have been put in place in more than 40 coun­tries.

Cur­rent re­sponse and preparedness ac­tiv­i­ties were re­viewed, as well as re­cent scal­ing up of the re­sponse. Pri­or­i­ties and strate­gies for mov­ing to­wards zero cases were pre­sented.

Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and UK pro­vided an up­date on and as­sess­ment of the Ebola sit­u­a­tion in their coun­tries, in­clud­ing progress to­wards im­ple­men­ta­tion of the tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tions.

Even though a few cases have oc­curred out­side the three most af­fected coun­tries, the mea­sures rec­om­mended that ap­pear to have been help­ful in lim­it­ing fur­ther in­ter­na­tional spread, in­clud­ing the ex­por­ta­tion of dis­ease from the three most af­fected coun­tries.

It was the unan­i­mous view of the Com­mit­tee that the event con­tin­ues to con­sti­tute a Pub­lic Health Emer­gency of In­ter­na­tional Con­cern. The Com­mit­tee re­viewed the tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tions pre­vi­ously is­sued and stated that all pre­vi­ous tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tions should re­main in ef­fect.

The com­mit­tee pro­vided the fol­low­ing ad­di­tional ad­vice to the Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral for her con­sid­er­a­tion in ad­dress­ing the Ebola out­break in ac­cor­dance with the IHR.

Mean­while, the com­mit­tee strongly rec­om­mended for the most af­fected coun­tries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone) and re­it­er­ated the pre­vi­ous tem­po­rary rec­om­men­da­tion on exit screen­ing and high­lighted the value of exit screen­ing in th­ese three coun­tries. Exit screen­ing re­mains crit­i­cal for min­i­miz­ing the risk of ex­por­ta­tion of Ebola cases.

The com­mit­tee fur­ther rec­om­mended that, the three most af­fected coun­tries should main­tain ro­bust exit screen­ing un­til Ebola trans­mis­sion is con­firmed to have stopped in th­ese coun­tries. The Com­mit­tee again urged af­fected coun­tries to pro­vide WHO reg­u­larly with the num­ber of peo­ple screened at in­ter­na­tional air­ports and the out­comes of exit screen­ing. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should support a sus­tain­able ap­proach to this exit screen­ing.

Be­sides that, the com­mit­tee also rec­om­mended to the shar­ing bor­ders with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that th­ese coun­tries should be con­duct­ing ac­tive surveil­lance, in­clud­ing in bor­der ar­eas, and en­gag­ing in cross­bor­der co­op­er­a­tion, in­for­ma­tion and as­set shar­ing, and con­tin­ued vig­i­lance for new cases. Na­tional gov­ern­ments should em­power lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties that have land cross­ings at shared na­tional bor­ders to be part of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties.

More­over, com­mit­tee had rec­om­mended to all coun­tries that the Com­mit­tee reaf­firmed the need to avoid un­nec­es­sary in­ter­fer­ence with in­ter­na­tional travel and trade, as spec­i­fied in Ar­ti­cle 2 of the IHR 2005. The Com­mit­tee noted that more than 40 coun­tries have im­ple­mented ad­di­tional mea­sures, such as quar­an­tine of re­turn­ing trav­el­ers and re­fusal of en­try. Such mea­sures are im­ped­ing the re­cruit­ment and re­turn of in­ter­na­tional re­spon­ders. They also have harm­ful ef­fects on lo­cal pop­u­la­tions by in­creas­ing stigma and iso­la­tion, and by dis­rupt­ing liveli­hoods and economies.

Mean­while, the com­mit­tee con­cluded that the pri­mary em­pha­sis must con­tinue to be on ‘get­ting to zero’ Ebola cases, by stop­ping the trans­mis­sion of Ebola within the three most af­fected coun­tries. This ac­tion is the most im­por­tant step for pre­vent­ing in­ter­na­tional spread. Com­pla­cency is the big­gest risk to not get­ting to zero cases and the con­tin­ued vig­i­lance would be es­sen­tial.

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