On July 17, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in response to the first confirmed case of EVD in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, DRC. In light of the risk of further transmission and the situation meeting the context of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), WHO declared the EVD outbreak in DRC a PHEIC, urging countries around the world to work together to fight against EVD while strengthening the implementation of border screening and prevention measures.
In response to the WHO’s declaration of the Ebola outbreak in DRC as PHEIC, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) convened an outbreak risk assessment meeting in the morning of July 18, 2019 to overview the relevant response efforts, covering disease surveillance, quarantine measures, nosocomial infection control, healthcare preparedness, and laboratory testing capacity, as well as to prepare for elevated risks. As WHO advised no country should close its borders or place any restrictions on trade as such measures usually push the movement of people and goods to informal border crossings that are not monitored, thus increasing the chances of the spread of disease. Hence, Taiwan CDC has maintained the travel notice for Ebola virus for DRC at Level 2: Alert, advising travelers visiting DRC to take actions to reduce their risk of Ebola infection.
Taiwan CDC pointed out that a total of 84 new cases of EVD were confirmed in DRC the recent week. As of now, a cumulative total of 2,512 cases, including 136 health workers, and 1,676 deaths, including 41 health workers, have been confirmed since last May. According to WHO, ongoing challenges that further facilitate local transmission include persistent nosocomial transmission, delays in case detection and isolation, insecurity, challenges in contact tracing, loopholes in border screening, and a highly mobile population. Moreover, the first case of EVD that was recently confirmed in Goma and died was a businessman who traveled back and forth Uganda, indicating the risk of further spread of the outbreak.
Taiwan CDC urges the public to follow its “Two Don’ts and One Do” advice in protecting themselves against Ebola: (1) Do not travel to Ebola-affected areas, including North Kivu province and Ituri province in DRC; if you must travel to an area with an Ebola outbreak, avoid contact with and consumption of wild animals, (2) Do not visit hospitals or have direct contact with patients, and (3) Do pay attention to personal hygiene and take preventive measures such as washing hands frequently and wear a mask when coughing. In addition, travelers are urged to monitor their own health for 21 days after their return to Taiwan. If suspicious symptoms develop, please seek immediate medical attention and voluntarily inform the doctor of any recent travel and exposure history to facilitate diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit the Taiwan CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov.tw or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922 (or 0800-001922).