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WHO Brings to an End ’PHEIC’ on Ebola Outbreaks in West Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday announced the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa no longer constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

Some of the Ebola specialists in Liberia carrying Ebola dead body.

The decision came after WHO convened the ninth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa took place on Tuesday.

WHO noted Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have met the criteria for confirming interruption of their original chains of Ebola virus transmission.

Specifically, all three countries have now completed the 42-day observation period and additional 90-day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negative.

WHO said Ebola transmission in West Africa "no longer constitutes an extraordinary event and the risk of international spread is now low," adding that all three countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new virus emergence.

WHO called for immediately lifting any restrictions on travel and trade with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone concerning the Ebola outbreaks, which claimed over 11,000 deaths and infected more than 28,600 patients since the end of 2013.

However, WHO warned new clusters of Ebola cases continue to occur due to reintroduction of virus as it is cleared from the survivor population, though at decreasing frequency. Twelve such clusters have been detected to date, the most recent of which was reported on March 17 in Guinea and is ongoing.

Doctors attending to Ebola patient in Liberia.

As in other areas of sub-Saharan Africa where Ebola virus is present in the ecosystem, and recognizing that new clusters due to re-emergence may occur in the coming months, WHO reinforced that these countries must maintain the capacity and readiness to prevent, detect and respond to any ongoing and/or new clusters in the future.

According to the UN health agency, national and international efforts must be intensified to ensure that male survivors can have their semen tested for virus persistence and know their status.

Work must continue on the use of Ebola vaccination for intimate and close contacts of those survivors who have persistent virus excretion.

By Robert Muriisa.

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