Ebola epidemic declared as global health emergency after deadly virus kills 1,600 in Congo

A DEADLY Ebola epidemic in Congo that's killed more than 1,600 people was last night declared an international health emergency.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) finally confirmed the crisis on Wednesday after a case of the virus was found in a city of 2million people.

At least 1,676 people have died since August last year – more than two thirds of those who contracted it – in the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

The decision to class the outbreak as an emergency – which some experts have said is long overdue – will bring greater international attention and aid.

The UK has already given £37.7m and has pledged a further £50m towards funding the fightback.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said: “It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts.

"We need to work together in solidarity with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to end this outbreak and build a better health system."


Ebola is highly infectious and fatal in up to 90 per cent of cases – with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain and internal bleeding.

The rare emergency declaration – reserved for only the gravest epidemics – came as a case was confirmed in Goma.

A pastor in the city of 2million bordering Rwanada died of the virus – sparking fears it could spread in the densely urban area.

Goma is a major regional crossroads in DRC on the Rwandan border with an international airport.

There are no direct flights between the UK and DRC – meaning the risk to the UK is considered very low.

Another case of the virus involved a sick Congolese fish trader who travelled to Uganda and back while symptomatic and later died of Ebola.

Deadly virus: What is Ebola, what are the symptoms and can it be treated?

THE Ebola virus can spread quickly and be fatal in up to 90% of cases.

Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.

The virus is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms and with contaminated objects such as sheets.

Health care workers are often at risk.

There is no licensed Ebola treatment, but early care such as rehydration helps to improve the chances of survival.

Some patients in the latest outbreak have received experimental treatments but their effect has not been fully studied.

An experimental Ebola vaccine has been effective in its first widespread use, and more than 163,000 people have been vaccinated.

The vaccine's testing was sped up during the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014-16 that killed more than 11,300 people.

Dr Tedros estimated "hundreds of millions" of dollars would be needed to stop the epidemic.

And Dr Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, warned that health authorities are on the back foot.

She said: "The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it's still not under control, and we are not where we should be.

"We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results."


It is only the fifth global health emergency declared in history.

A previous emergency was declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people

The emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio were also classed as health crises.

WHO defines a global emergency as an "extraordinary event" that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Last month, the outbreak spilled across the border for the first time when a family brought the virus into Uganda after attending the burial in Congo of an infected relative.


Alexandra Phelan, a global health expert at Georgetown University Law Center, described Wednesday's declaration as long overdue.

She said: "This essentially serves as a call to the international community that they have to step up appropriate financial and technical support."

But she warned against governments overreacting by shutting borders as that could hamper the flow of medicines and healthcare workers.

The WHO's emergency committee will meet again within three months to assess the situation.

Committee members will review whether the outbreak is still a global emergency and whether other measures are needed.

The current outbreak is spreading in a warzone where dozens of rebel groups are active and where Ebola had not been experienced before.

Efforts to contain the virus have been hurt by mistrust among wary locals that has prompted deadly attacks on health workers.

Some infected people have deliberately evaded health authorities.

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