HealthDay News — The World Health Organization on Wednesday called the year-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo a global health emergency, The New York Times reported.
The declaration, made by a panel of experts, follows news this week that the deadly infectious disease had spread to Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo. Earlier this week, a preacher with Ebola arrived by bus to the city of 2 million, which is near the border with Rwanda. He has since died, the WHO confirmed. And as of Monday, the outbreak in the Congo has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676 of them, the Times reported.
Declaring the epidemic an emergency is a rare step for the WHO, which typically reserves the move for outbreaks that could severely affect public health and/or spread to other countries. Such declarations typically spur increases in global attention and aid.
Speaking to the Times, Josie Golding of the Wellcome Trust, a London-based research charity, said resources in Congo to fight the epidemic have been “overstretched and underfunded.” She believes that the WHO upping the threat level will “help raise international support and release more resources — including finance, health care workers, enhanced logistics, security, and infrastructure.” The WHO said that since February, it has so far received $49 million from international donors, just half the necessary funding needed for a sufficient response. There have been reports of aid workers going without the necessary protective gear and medical staff reusing syringes and gloves, the Times said.