WHO Decides Not To Declare International Health Emergency Over Ebola Outbreak

Tedros said more than 7,000 doses of an experimental vaccine are being sent, and some should be available beginning Sunday. WHO officials cited the vaccine as a key aid in tracing contacts, as it encourages people to be honest about possible Ebola exposure.

WHO advises other countries against imposing travel or trade restrictions on the Democratic Republic of Congo, which “needs our support & solidarity,” Tedros added in a tweet.

WHO said it has secured almost $9 million of the $26 million it needs from the international community to contain the outbreak. In contrast, the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people and infected 28,000 cost $3.6 billion to fight.

“The decision by WHO not to call a public health emergency of international concern is the right one for the time being,” Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Fund, a U.K. philanthropy that has donated $2.7 million to the outbreak, said in a statement.

“These measures, heightened surveillance in surrounding countries and coordinated global action give us the best possible chance to protect the communities and healthcare workers most at risk of Ebola,” Farrar continued. “However, we can’t predict how the outbreak will progress, and the WHO must keep the situation under frequent review.” 

Jeremy Konyndyk, who helped lead the Obama administration response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, told HuffPost WHO made the right call “for now,” as the threshold for an international emergency declaration is “rightfully pretty high.”

When the 2014 outbreak was declared an international emergency, “weekly new case counts were in the hundreds, across three countries, and accelerating,” said Konyndyk, now a senior policy fellow for the Washington-based Center for Global Development. “That declaration should have been made sooner, but even so, the current situation in DRC is nowhere close to that. New case counts are around 2-4 per day, in a single country, and not accelerating.”

That WHO considered the emergency declaration only 10 days after being notified about the first cases ― a contrast with the months-long delay in the 2014 outbreak ― shows the seriousness of the response, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told HuffPost.

Jha said he agreed with WHO’s decision, but said the spread of Ebola to an urban area is highly concerning.

Other experts, including former Obama administration Ebola czar Ronald Klain, also urged continued caution.