The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) has described the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as an “international emergency”.
At a news conference during crisis talks in Geneva, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan stressed the need for a coordinated international response to the most severe Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
“The declaration of a public health emergency of international concern alerts the world to the need for high vigilance for possible cases of Ebola disease, but by no means implies that all countries, or even many countries, will see Ebola cases,” Chan explained.
At least 1,700 cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone since December. More than 930 people have died.
There is no licensed treatment or vaccine. But the WHO says that the spread of the disease can be stopped if the right steps are taken to detect it and deal with affected people.
Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security, told the news conference: “This is an infectious disease that can be contained,” adding, “It is not a virus that is spread through the air.”
WHO recommendations include: good surveillance to identify potential cases; updating people in affected countries on the dangers; measures to manage risks to healthcare workers.