WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international public health emergency

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The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in west Africa a public health emergency of international concern that requires an extraordinary response to stop its spread.Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, said the Ebola outbreak – the largest and longest in history – was happening in countries without the resources to manage the infections and called on the international community to help.”Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own,” Chan said. “I urge the international community to provide this support on the most urgent basis possible.”

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The current outbreak began in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia, with some cases also found in Nigeria. There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola and the death rate has been about 50%.The virus has an incubation period of up to 21 days, meaning symptoms do not necessarily show before then. Once transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, meat or surfaces, a fever quickly degenerates into internal and external bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea, which all contain vast amounts of the pathogen.

Chan said not all countries, or even a majority of countries, would see cases but the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern was “a clear call for international solidarity”.WHO declared similar emergencies for the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and for polio in May.