WHO To Hold Emergency Meeting To Discuss Ebola's Spread

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  • Ebola Unicef Poster_Aug12014
    Girls look at a poster, distributed by UNICEF, bearing information on and illustrations of best practices that help prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease (EVD), in the city of Voinjama, in Lofa County, Liberia in this April 2014 UNICEF handout photo.
  • Nancy Writebol Ebola treatment
    An ambulance carrying American missionary Nancy Writebol, 59, who is infected with Ebola in West Africa arrives at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia on Aug. 5, 2014.
  • Ebola outbreak in Africa
    Volunteers lower a corpse, which is prepared with safe burial practices to ensure it does not pose a health risk to others and stop the chain of person-to-person transmission of Ebola, into a grave in Kailahun on Aug. 2, 2014.
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The World Health Organization, or WHO, will hold a two-day meeting, starting Wednesday, to discuss whether the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus is to be considered as an international public health emergency.

The meeting comes amid the worst outbreak of the disease, which has primarily affected Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, and had killed 887 people and infected more than 1,600 people by Aug. 1. The WHO is also set to hold a press conference Friday with Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director of WHO, to discuss the outcome of the emergency meeting and release a set of recommendations for immediate implementation to halt Ebola’s spread.

According to a United Nations statement, if the committee decides that the outbreak qualifies as an international crisis, it would “recommend to the Director-General of WHO to declare it a public health emergency of international concern and recommend appropriate temporary measures to reduce international spread,” Tarik Jašarevic, a WHO spokesperson, said in the statement.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus is already becoming a concern for countries outside West Africa, including in the U.S., where two people -- Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol -- are being treated for Ebola. The two, who contracted the virus while working with patients in Liberia, are being treated with ZMapp, which has never been tested on a human being before.

Last Friday, the U.N. also launched an Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in Guinea, but the $100 million program faces a funding gap of $71 million, according to the statement.

Ebola spreads with exposure to infected blood and bodily fluids, and initial symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, according to WHO. Once the disease evolves, it leads to vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function, and in a few extreme cases, internal and external bleeding.

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