Following the news on April 10, 2019 that the WHO plans to reconvene a panel to consider declaring the DRC Ebola epidemic a global public health emergency,
Paul Jeng, Senior Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on necessary steps to contain the current Ebola outbreak:
“Since the initial epidemic declaration in August of last year, the Ebola outbreak in the DRC has been roiled by unpredictable swings between progress and setback. Early enthusiasm about containing infection with Merck’s effective experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV has been tempered by persistent conflict in North Kivu, which continues to frustrate relief efforts from global health organizations. The outbreak mortality rate is now higher than experts initially predicted, with least 1,160 total cases and 740 deaths.
“According to GlobalData’s report: ‘Vaccines for Emerging Infectious Diseases: Funding, R&D, and Global Partnership Strategies,’ the critical step in outbreak control is uniting key local stakeholders around disease surveillance, immunization, and community access and education priorities. However, this has proven to be challenging in the DRC due to acts of violence directed against health workers in Butembo and Katwa, which forced Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to withdraw nonessential aid workers for a short period.
“There is still optimism that Merck’s Ebola vaccine—which has been administered to nearly 100,000 individuals—has played an important role in keeping the situation from getting worse. The DRC outbreak will continue to require global backing to ensure that sufficient doses of the vaccine will be shipped, stored, and administered in proper fashion.
“International focus on the 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic grew after limited cases spread to countries like Spain and the US. In an effort to preclude that situation, a WHO declaration of the current outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) would aim to trigger a coordinated international response and provide badly needed support for medical staff and security.”