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WHO Declaration of Public Health Event of International Concern

11 Aug 2014

The first meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) regarding the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa was held on 6-7 August 2014.

Following discussion and consideration, the Committee advised that:

  • The Ebola outbreak in West Africa constitutes an ‘extraordinary event’ and a public health risk to other States.
  • The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries.
  • A coordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola.

The Committee agreed that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) have been met.

Read the WHO Statement on the Meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for further information on the challenges for the affected countries and the advice from the Committee to the Director-General for consideration to address the Ebola outbreak in accordance with IHR (2005).

Advice for Travellers

WHO states that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade with affected countries and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have imposed no travel restrictions to the affected countries with regard to the Ebola virus disease outbreak at present.

  • Travellers should check with the FCO for the latest information on travel advice.

Ebola is transmitted by direct contact between non-intact skin, eyes or mucous membranes and body fluids of an infected person. All body fluids may be infectious and sexual transmission can occur. It is not transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with intact skin (e.g. hand shaking).

The risk of transmission of the disease to travellers is very low and can be further reduced by:

  • Avoiding contact with symptomatic patients and/or their body fluids. 
  • Avoiding contact with the bodies and/or body fluids from deceased patients. 
  • Avoiding contact with animals (including monkeys, forest antelopes, rodents and bats), both alive and dead, and consumption of ‘bush meat’.
  • Washing hands regularly, using soap or antiseptics.

Travellers returning from tropical countries should always seek rapid medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, diarrhoea or general malaise) within three weeks after return, and be reminded to mention to their health care provider that they have recently travelled.