Ebola Virus Current Affairs - 2019

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WHO declares Ebola outbreak in DRC as a Global Health Emergency

World Health Organization (WHO) has declared deadly Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. This announcement comes after Ebola virus spread to a city of 2 million people.

Key Highlights

Meaning: Invoking the emergency provision by WHO of declaring a Public health emergency of international concern, is a rare designation which is only used for gravest epidemics. This is done when there is an extraordinary event which constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

Condition: As per WHO’s international health regulations, drafted in 2005, the emergency label should apply to a situation that is an extraordinary event which poses public health risk to other countries via international spread and that potentially requires a coordinated international response.

Impact: Declaring global health emergency brings greater international attention and aid, along with concerns that nervous governments might overreact with border closures.

Reason: The year-old Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC, is 2nd deadliest on record. Although it has largely been contained to remote areas, but recently in July second week a patient was diagnosed with virus in provincial capital Goma, which became 1st case in a major urban hub. This confirmed case in Goma escalated the crisis because the city is a gateway to Africa’s Great Lakes region and wider world.

Previous Declaration: This emergency provision, activated by UN health agency have been previously invoked only four times-

  1. 2009- H1N1, or swine flu pandemic
  2. 2014- Spread of poliovirus
  3. 2014-2016- Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa. It killed more than 11,000 people.
  4. 2016- Surge of Zika virus

This is new declaration is 5th such declaration in history.

About Ebola Virus

It is highly contagious. It has an average fatality rate of around 50%.

Transmission: It is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads among people via close contact with blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.

Bombali: New strain of Ebola virus discovered in Sierra Leone

Researchers working in joint US-West African study funded by USAid have discovered new strain of Ebola virus in bats in northern Bombali region of Sierra Leone. It has been named as Bombali virus strain, after district where it was found. The Bombali virus is overall sixth known virus strain Ebola virus. Others are Zaire, Sudan, Tai Forest, Bundibugyo and Reston. Ebola virus is a highly fatal haemorrhagic fever that is spread through contact with bodily fluids from infected persons and animals which include non-human primates, bats and forest antelope. Zaire strain of Ebola virus is the most deadly strain known

Bombali strain

The new Bombali strain of Ebola virus is distinct from its other virus strains. It is not yet known whether it could develop into the deadly disease. It is also not known that if Bombali virus has been transmitted to people or if it causes disease in people. However, results show it has the potential to infect human cells. Further research will help in understanding more about specific risks it poses.

Background

The finding of new strain of virus comes two years after end of worst-ever Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  The three West African neighbouring countries were hard hit by Ebola outbreak which began in Guinea in December 2013 before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The epidemic was declared over by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016 after claiming over 11,300 lives out of nearly 30,000 registered cases. The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was caused by Zaire virus, which was discovered in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire in 1976.