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WHO Accused of Delay in Declaring Ebola Outbreak a Health Emergency

by Dr. Trupti Shirole on December 4, 2014 at 5:08 PM
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WHO Accused of Delay in Declaring Ebola Outbreak a Health Emergency

The World Health Organization has been accused of dithering in reacting to the deadly Ebola epidemic, by the Belgian microbiologist, Peter Piot who co-discovered the Ebola virus.

In an interview to Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, Peter Piot who is director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said, "It took three months for the WHO to find out there was an Ebola outbreak. That I understand. Guinea had a poor laboratory infrastructure. I have much more of a problem with the fact that it took five months for WHO - for the international health regulations committee, for that's what it is - to declare this a state of emergency. It took too long. We wasted too much precious time."

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Authorities in Guinea and the WHO declared on March 24, 2014 that since January the west African country had recorded 87 suspected cases of viral hemorrhagic fever, including 61 deaths. Scientists who were studying samples in the French city of Lyon also confirmed it was Ebola. However, the WHO did not declare the outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern' until August 8, 2014.

In Piot's opinion the response to Ebola needed to address both the lack of robust healthcare systems and the cultural habits and belief systems prevalent in the affected countries. He also blamed the mass hysteria in North America which led to quarantine of people returning from west Africa as a major deterrent and disincentive for supporting the countries in west Africa.

The Ebola outbreak has claimed 6,070 lives, according to the latest WHO update, with the vast majority of deaths in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.



Source: Medindia
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