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Ebola outbreak in Congo still ‘qualifies’ as global emergency: WHO

KINSHASA, Congo: The World Health Organization expert committee said current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo still classifies as a global emergency, on Friday, despite reduction in confirmed number of cases in recent weeks.

The United Nations health agency first declared the epidemic as an international emergency in July – recognizing it as the second deadliest outbreak in history.

WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the epidemic is “complex and dangerous” and “officials must continue to treat every case like it is the first”.

“Every case has the potential to spark a new and bigger outbreak,” he warned.

As many as 3,113 confirmed cases have been reported since the outbreak was reported last August while over 2,150 people have lost their lives to the virus so far.

Though only 15 new cases of virus have been confirmed last week, most of those confirmed sick were not in contact of previously infected persons.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Ebola response lead, said some of the most recent cases have been detected in a remote mining area which is difficult for the health officials to reach.

“We still don’t have a full picture of where the virus may be, but we don’t believe we’re dealing with a catastrophic situation,” he said.

People can get Ebola virus through direct contact with an infected bat, primate, or person (both alive and dead), according to health experts.

WHO has warned that almost one-third of people dying outside treatment centres are exposing families and communities to the virus.

“When your new cases are not coming off your contact list, that means you don’t have things under control,” said Dr Armand Sprecher, an Ebola specialist at Doctors Without Borders.

Sprecher revealed that attempts to build trust among the wary local population are still failing.

“We have not communicated very well over the last year, so can we really do this now? I don’t know,” he said.

Confirmed new cases which had peaked in April at nearly 130 a week, have now fallen to relatively low level, yet the threat of a far-reaching outbreak remains.