The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday the outbreak of confirmed Ebola cases in Congo has become an international health emergency.
According to The Associated Press, with more than 1,600 people confirmed victims since August from the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, the WHO finally decided to officially declare the situation as an international emergency after three previous meetings.
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The WHO’s declaration will help bring more international attention and aid to the region, which reported its first case earlier this week in Goma, a city of around two million people with an international airport.
While the risk of Ebola spreading in the region remains a significant concern of WHO officials, chief executive Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed the threat outside the impacted areas remains low.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said the emergency declaration “should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help.” In the United States, the Agency for International Development said it would “scale up life-saving support” to help end the outbreak.
WHO’s declaration of an international health emergency is the fifth in history, with others including the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Zika outbreak in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.