Ebola outbreak in DR Congo declared a public health emergency of international concern

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo represents a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The PHEIC emergency provision is the highest level of alarm the WHO can sound and has only been used four times previously.

“It is time for the world to take notice,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.

The declaration followed a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the DRC. The Committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda. Whilst the risk remains low at an international level, the committee cited the cause for concern linked to the recent case in Goma, as the city is a provincial capital with an airport with international flights.

The current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which began one year ago has now killed 1,813 people. The intensity of the epidemiological situation is fluctuating, with about 80 new cases reported weekly.

Beni, a city in north eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is the main hotspot. There are 2,512 confirmed or probable cases, including 136 health workers affected, with 40 deaths among them.