WHO: Ebola outbreak a public health emergency

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency Friday over the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 900 people in Western Africa. 

The news came as the State Department ordered the removal of family members of U.S. Embassy staff in Liberia.

The WHO called for an international effort to help with the outbreak. However, it said countries should not impose general travel or international trade bans. 

It called the outbreak an extraordinary event and said the consequences of further international spread are serious.

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"Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO chief, according to The Associated Press. "I urge the international community to provide this support on the most urgent basis possible."

It is only the third time the WHO has issued the warning since the system was put in place in 2007, according to reports. 

The WHO said the spread has been complicated because the health systems of the African countries do not have the resources to deal with the outbreak, it involves highly mobile populations, and a large number of infections have come from healthcare workers. 

More than 1,700 cases of Ebola have been reported, originating in the country of Guinea and spreading to Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. A total of 932 deaths have been reported. 

The State Department had warned citizens about travel to the African countries last month. On Thursday, it said it was removing the family of embassy staff in Liberia because the disease had "overwhelmed Liberia's health system and most health facilities lack sufficient staff or resources" to deal with the problem. 

The embassy will remain open. In addition, the State Department announced 12 specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and 13 members from the United States Agency for International Development were traveling to the country to help with the outbreak.

The CDC has said it is confident the United States would not experience an outbreak.