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BSI response to WHO Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

17 July 2019

On 17 July 2019, the World Health Organization announced a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in relation to the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In response to this announcement, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement.

Professor Arne Akbar, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“The ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and its recent spread to the city of Goma, is concerning. Ebola is just one of many emerging global health threats where pathogens have jumped the species barrier to infect humans, and we can be sure that it won’t be the last. The Ebola outbreak of 2014–16 in West Africa showed the full extent of the devastation that this disease can inflict and the difficulties in combatting it. During that outbreak, the international research community came together in a way not seen previously to develop and trial an effective vaccine to protect people from contracting Ebola. Although this experimental vaccine has proved itself very effective in the current outbreak, protecting over 97% of people who receive it, the highly volatile situation on the ground means that it has been difficult for healthcare workers to vaccinate everyone in need.  With a Public Health Emergency of International Concern now declared, speed is of the essence and the global health community must come together again and act quickly to use all means at our disposal to contain this outbreak.

“It is now crucial that we continue to energise, organise and fund the UK research community to be able to respond to this type of emerging health threat at short notice. We are a global leader in this space and since 2016, the UK Government has taken steps forward with a number of new initiatives including the Joint Initiative on Epidemic Preparedness. With the right investment and leadership going forwards, we can be sure that the UK will have the infrastructure in place to quickly and efficiently mobilise our research base to develop vaccines and novel therapeutics to help lead global health efforts while maintaining our own resilience against such emerging threats.”