Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

WHO declares Ebola as a global health emergency

Briefing the media after an emergency meeting on Ebola during a press conference. (Source: AP) Briefing the media after an emergency meeting on Ebola during a press conference. (Source: AP)
Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Posted: August 8, 2014 3:48 pm | Updated: August 8, 2014 4:28 pm

In a virtual press conference held at Geneva headquarters Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the current outbreak of Ebola disease virus (EVD) as “the most complex outbreak leading to public health emergency” and called for a global health alert in all countries.

EVD has infected 1,711 people including 932 deaths till August 4 in four Western African countries—Guinea (393 deaths), Sierra Leone (286 deaths), Liberia (282 deaths) and Nigeria (1 death), said WHO reports.

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“A two-day committee on Ebola concluded that tight vigilance, detection and containment of this disease is necessary with international cooperation. People should be informed about what measures to be taken in case the symptoms arise. The ones at maximum risk are health workers and family members of infected people,” said Margaret Chan, director general at WHO.

Ebola, known to have a fatality rate up to 90 per cent, can spread through physical contact. While WHO experts have declared no immediate ban on international travel, they have recommended all countries to prepare protective gears for health workers and create isolation chambers for patients for 30 days observation.

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Dr Keiji Fukuda, assistant director at WHO, said, “There is known vaccination for Ebola virus… In this situation, we have few unapproved drugs available in small quantities. But to use them, ethical, medical and scientific issues are there… On Monday, a meeting for discussing drug usage will be held.”

The WHO next week plans to convene medical ethicists meeting to ‘explore use of experimental treatment’ in the ongoing outbreak.

Meanwhile, the union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced that the laboratory capacity at National Institute of Virology, Pune, and National Center for Disease Control, Delhi, are being strengthened for diagnosing the virus.

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According to health experts, India lacks the advanced isolation facility necessary to handle infected patients. A doctor of infectious disease said, “Ebola patients must be kept in level 5 isolation chambers. In India, we have level 3 isolation chambers which can only help in treating diseases like H1N1. The Ebola virus is much more dangerous and can spread easily through bodily secreations.”

Currently, all international airport authorities in the country have been issued advisory to alert international travelers about symptoms of the Ebola virus. An official from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, said, “We have an APHO [Airport Health Organisation] which has set up kiosks to disseminate alerts on the virus. We received a notification to set up health alerts late evening on Thursday. However, no screening of passengers is taking place at this stage,” the official said.

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About Ebola virus disease (EVD)

-A fatal viral infection that spreads through physical contact or through infected bodily fluids or secretions from the patient. The incubation period is 2-21 days and patient requires complete isolation.

-Fatality rate is up to 90 per cent

-Symptoms include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and impaired kidney/liver functioning

-Does not spread through air

-There are five known strains of Ebola virus, of which the Zaire strain is widespread in Western Africa.

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