EBOLA UPDATE: African Health Ministers Agree on Priority Actions to End Outbreak
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EBOLA UPDATE: African Health Ministers Agree on Priority Actions to End Outbreak

In Guinea, WHO's Dr. Pierre Formenty, right, and Dr. Dieudonne Nkoghe train local healthcare workers to use personal protective equipment. (WHO Photo) In Guinea, WHO's Dr. Pierre Formenty, right, and Dr. Dieudonne Nkoghe train local healthcare workers to use personal protective equipment. (WHO Photo)

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT – Health Ministers in an Emergency Ministerial meeting on Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have agreed on a range of priority actions to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  The scale of the ongoing is unprecedented according to the World Health Organization (WHO) which called for the emergency meeting in order to stem the tide of EVD.

Health officials are concerned that EVD could spread outside continental Africa sparking a global health scare, and further global implications that it could have.  There are reports of over 750 cases and 445 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia since March 2014.

In March 2014 Guinea notified WHO about cases of Ebola virus Disease. The cases were initially confined to rural Guinea with the epicenter being Gueckedou. What started as a rural outbreak has now spread to Conakry the capital of Guinea as well as cross border spread into Sierra Leone and Liberia. The current Ebola outbreak has surpassed all other outbreaks in terms of cases, deaths and geographic spread across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In an effort to interrupt further spread of this virus in the shortest possible time, the World Health Organization convened an Emergency Ministerial meeting in Accra, Ghana from 2-3 July 2014 involving eleven (11) countries mostly from West Africa and a number of key international partners involved in the Ebola outbreak response. The aim of the meeting was to discuss how to contain the disease, share experiences and agree on a strategy for an accelerated operational response to bring an end to the outbreak.

In a Communiqué issued at the end of the two-day meeting, the Ministers agreed that the current situation poses a serious threat to all countries in the region and beyond and called for immediate action. They expressed concern on the adverse social and economic impact of the outbreak and stressed the need for coordinated actions by all stakeholders, national leadership, enhanced cross-border collaboration and community participation in the response.

Speaking at the closing session, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo commended the Ministers and said: “We have adopted an inter-country strategy to tackle this outbreak. It’s time for concrete action to put an end to the suffering and deaths caused by Ebola virus disease and prevent its further spread”.

In spite of the ongoing efforts to tackle the outbreak, there was consensus that a number of gaps and challenges remain. These relate to coordination of the outbreak, financing, communication, cross border collaboration, logistics, case management, infection control, surveillance, contact tracing, community participation and research.

The World Health Organization will establish a Sub-Regional Control Center in Guinea to act as a coordinating platform to consolidate and harmonize the technical support to West African countries by all major partners; and assist in resource mobilization. The delegates also underscored the importance of WHO leading an international effort to promote research on Ebola virus disease and other haemorrhagic fevers.

Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%.
  • EVD outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.
  • Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

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