WHO escalates response to Ebola outbreak

The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO

WHO is scaling up its operations to control the Ebola outbreak in West African countries as part of an intensified international campaign. The Director-General of WHO and presidents of West African nations impacted by the Ebola virus disease outbreak met Friday in Guinea to launch a new joint US$ 100 million response plan to bring the outbreak under control.

The scale of the ongoing outbreak is unprecedented, with 1323 confirmed, probable and suspected cases reported, and 729 deaths since March 2014 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as of 27 July 2014.

“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”

Dr Chan also announced that under the provisions of the International Health Regulations she has convened an Emergency Committee that will meet on 6 August to assess the international implications of West Africa’s outbreak. The WHO Director-General is relying on the experts in this Committee, including those from West African nations, to heighten international awareness of the magnitude of this outbreak and the many challenges that need urgent support from the international community.

More public health personnel needed

Hundreds of international workers, including more than 120 WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required, especially clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers, according to the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan. The neighbouring nations’ preparedness and global capacities to respond also need to be strengthened.

Based on lessons learnt from other outbreaks, the new response plan includes strategies to:

  • stop transmission of Ebola virus disease in the affected countries by scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures; and
  • prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease to the neighbouring at-risk countries by strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures.

The plan also emphasizes the importance of surveillance (particularly in border areas), risk assessments and laboratory-based diagnostic testing of suspected cases. Protection of health workers, a scarce resource in all three countries, from infection also needs to be improved.