Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) today said that the Ebola outbreak response has entered its third phase, but warned against “irrational exuberance” as the number of fresh cases dropped to two last week.
“We have gone over the last four weeks from 30 cases to 25 to seven to two cases last week. That progress is real,” said Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General of WHO.
“There are still substantive risks. The biggest risk now is irrational exuberance, to quote a famous economist or unrealistic expectations. There are people thinking that ‘oh, great, it’s gone from 30 to 25 to seven to two. It will go to one and zero.’ It won’t,” Aylward said.
There are two or three areas that are particularly at high risks of having additional flares.
The road to stopping the outbreak is going to be “bouncy” especially with the “very difficult” ongoing monsoon season where the Ebola cases typically tend to spike up but ending the epidemic this year is a “realistic and appropriate goal”, the WHO official said.
The cases have already started going up with two new cases already reported this week.
“As of today, we have two cases. We already have as many cases this week as we had last week,” Aylward said.
However, the Ebola outbreak response has entered a new phase, said the official.
“It is very, very clear that we are moving to a new phase of the Ebola response – what we are calling phase 3,” he said.
“In phase three, we are looking at two big efforts: first is to define and stop the remaining transmission chains. And the second part looking forward is that we manage any residual associated with the risk of re-emergence of the disease and to deal with the care and support of survivors and for that we are looking through 2016,” he stated.
At present there are about half a dozen transmission chains across the three countries with about 1900 people under surveillance.
For the first time last week all the cases in Sierra Leone and Guinea could be traced to contacts but the fresh cases this week have not been linked to their contacts yet.
“Every time that happens I say plan for another two months,” Aylward said.
Ebola vaccine will make the response to Ebola safer and “potentially” faster, said the official.
“It is not a changer as much as an enhancer. The game is still about case finding, contact tracing or rapid isolations, safe burials. That’s how you stop Ebola,” Aylward said.
As of July 29, 27,748 people had been affected by the Ebola virus including 11,279 deaths in one of the deadliest outbreaks in history in the three African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.