Ebola outbreak a global health emergencyListen /
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa which has claimed over 900 lives has been declared an international public health emergency.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the Ebola disease outbreak is a public health risk to other states and is calling for international solidary to help the affected countries cope with the outbreak.
WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan says the spread of the disease is being fuelled by the fragile state of public health systems in the affected countries coupled with acute shortages of essential medical supplies, qualified staff and public misconceptions about the disease.
WHO is recommending that all countries with active community transmission of the Ebola virus should declare a national health emergency and consider postponing mass gatherings until the disease transmission is interrupted.
"The declaration of a public health emergency of international concern alerts the world to the need for high vigilance for possible cases of Ebola virus disease. But by no means implies that all countries will see Ebola cases. Only a small part of the African continent is currently affected. Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own. They do not have the financial capacity, they do not have enough doctors, nurses, even the protective clothing, yes they have some but they don't have the amount that is required to scale up in order to contain the outbreak. These countries just came out of years of conflict and difficulties. If we do not support these countries, they will be set back for many many years. "
To minimize the risk of international spread, WHO says all passengers travelling from the affected countries should be screened possible Ebola symptoms and that those already infected should not be transferred from one country to another.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.