Statement on the 2nd meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa
The second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the IHR 2005 regarding the 2014 Ebola virus disease (EVD, or “Ebola”) outbreak in west Africa was conducted with members and advisors of the Emergency Committee through electronic correspondence from 16 September 2014 through 21 September 20141.
The following IHR States Parties provided an update on and assessment of the Ebola outbreak, including progress towards implementation of the Emergency Committee’s Temporary Recommendations2: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal.
The Committee, whilst recognising and appreciating the efforts made by affected States, identified a number of areas where more action and attention is urgently needed. In particular, the Committee noted:
- Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread of the disease; the Committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade, except for the restrictions outlined in the previous recommendations regarding the travel of EVD cases and contacts.
- The Committee also advised that affected countries should fully engage with the transport sector, especially the aviation and maritime sectors, to facilitate a mutual understanding of potentially diverse viewpoints and develop a coordinated response.
- Where extraordinary supplemental measures such as quarantine are considered necessary in States with intense and widespread transmission, States should ensure that they are proportionate and evidence-based, and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water, are provided to the affected populations.
- Many responders have lost their lives due to the nature of the response work; the Committee stressed that affected countries should ensure that health-care workers receive:
- adequate security measures for their safety and protection;
- appropriate education and training on infection prevention and control;
- support to families of deceased health care workers;
- and access to adequate health care services, in particular for international health care workers.
- Challenges in implementation of standard Ebola control measures (case finding and contact tracing, case management, safe burials, social mobilization) in affected countries warrant measures to augment their implementation, including through deepened community engagement, in areas of intense transmission.
- All States should reinforce preparedness, validate preparation plans and check their state of preparedness through simulations and adequate training of personnel.
The Committee emphasized the importance of continued support by WHO and other national and international partners towards the effective implementation and monitoring of these recommendations. The Committee also highlighted the need: for enhanced mobilization and coordination of resources to facilitate response efforts; to engage the global research community and address key research opportunities (e.g. virus mutation, modelling effects of entry/exit strategies, effectiveness of various public health measures directly relevant to Ebola control including health-care worker infection and protection, new/unregistered medical interventions).
Based on this advice and the information considered by the Committee, the Director-General accepted the Committee’s assessment, and declared that the 2014 Ebola outbreak in west Africa continued to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The Director-General extended the Temporary Recommendations issued on 8 August 2014 under the IHR, noting the additional clarity provided in respect of the recommendations. The Director-General thanked the Committee members and advisors for their advice and requested their reassessment of this situation within three months.