The UN’s World Health Organisation has declared an international health emergency to tackle the Ebola crisis. West Africa’s raging epidemic of Ebola virus is an “extraordinary event” and now constitutes an international health risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday.

The Geneva-based United Nations health agency said the possible consequences of further international spread of the outbreak, which has killed almost 1 000 people in four West African countries, are “particularly serious” in view of the virulence of the virus. “A co-ordinated international response is deemed essential to stop and reverse the international spread of Ebola,” the WHO said in a statement after a two-day meeting of its emergency committee on Ebola.

The declaration of an international emergency will have the effect of raising the level of vigilance for transmission of the virus. The agency added that while all states with Ebola transmission – so far Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone – should declare a national emergency, there should be no general ban on international travel or trade.

The current death toll is over 900. The American Centers for Disease Control raised Ebola to class one – the highest level of health threat. There are demands that an experimental drug which was given to American Ebola victims should be made available in Africa, but President Obama has ruled this out for the time being.

CDC EbolaThese are some of the latest stories:

    • Liberian soldiers have set up a blockade stopping people from western regions affected by the Ebola outbreak from entering the capital, Monrovia. In Sierra Leone the security forces have now imposed a complete blockade of eastern areas hit by Ebola. Liberia had declared a state of emergency to try to cope with the Ebola crisis. President Sirleaf said in a statement that the government and people of Liberia required “extraordinary measures for the very survival of our state and for the protection of the lives of our people”.She said that “ignorance and poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices, continue to exacerbate the spread of the disease”.
    • Bodies had been dumped in the streets in Liberia, as relatives fear their family members have died of Ebola. This despite the Liberian government ordering that all Ebola dead be cremated.
    • Sierra Leone cannot contain the epidemic, according to a doctor from the medical charity, MSF. Anja Wolz said the country needs international help if it is going to stop the situation from getting worse. Specifically, she called on the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to become involved.“I think that the government and the ministry of health here in Sierra Leone is not able to deal with this outbreak. We need much more help from international organizations – as WHO, as CDC, as other organizations – to come to support the government,” she said.“Still we have unsafe burials; people who are doing the burial without disinfection of the body; still we have patients who are hiding themselves; still we have patients or contacts of patients who are running away because they are afraid.”
    • West African leaders agreed to seal off areas of infection, with troops, if need be. “We have agreed to take important and extraordinary actions at the inter-country level to focus on cross-border regions that have more than 70 percent of the epidemic,” said Hadja Saran Darab, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc grouping the nations.”These areas will be isolated by police and military. The people in these areas being isolated will be provided with material support,” she said at the meeting in Conakry.
    • World Health Organisation warns that traditional burial practices in Sierra Leone and Guinea of washing bodies helps spread the virus.
    • Nigeria has declared a medical emergency to fight Ebola. A doctor who treated the Ebola patient from Liberia has himself contracted the disease. The country has recorded its second Ebola death and more people infected with the virus. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government worries about how to prevent Ebola further, since the country has more than 1,400 illegal or informal border crossings. Nigeria has also banned the return of bodies from outside the country, especially from Ebola infected countries.
    • Ghana has banned flight from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

    • A man returning to Saudi Arabia from Sierra Leone has died with Ebola like symptoms.

    • Ethiopia has established an Ebola prevention committee.
    • South Africa is to host an ‘Ebola war room’ for southern Africa. But South Africa says it will not allow foreign nationals to travel to the country for medical care.”If there is a confirmed diagnosis of a foreign national, they will not be allowed into the country (to get treatment),” said Lucille Blumberg of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. “If it is undiagnosed and the person does not know, they will be treated.”
    • British Airways suspends flights to Sierra Leone. Aksy – a major West African airline – ended flights between the effected countries. Asky said it took the decision to keep “its passengers and staff safe during this unsettling time”. Emirates suspends flights to Guinea.

    • The U.S. is sending more than 50 Ebola experts to the region to try to fight the epidemic. 274 Mormon missionaries are being transferred out of Sierra Leone and Liberia due to the Ebola outbreak. The U.S. Peace Corps has evacuated hundreds of its staff from the effected countries. Air ambulances  evacuated two American medical staff infected by Ebola. The health of one of the evacuees, Kent Brantly, is reported to be improving.
    • There is concern in Britain that Ebola might be brought in by infected smuggled bush meat. Several British nationals have been put into voluntary quarantine after returning from West Africa. So has an American doctor.

Despite the evident concern, scientists continue to insist that Ebola is not a global threat. This article from Scientific America makes this case, arguing that the virus is NOT easily spread.