Countries in the Americas to use Ebola outbreak to improve coordination, preparedness

During a meeting of the World Health Organization's (WHO) executive board on Sunday, representatives from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged the international community to heed lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

PAHO representatives said the outbreak presented unprecedented challenges for countries that have been directly affected by the outbreak of Ebola and the international community.

"True preparedness does not stem solely from contingency plans but needs to be firmly embedded in robust national health systems, a trained health workforce and a supportive network of regional and global partners capable of coordinating efforts and channeling sufficient resources to act timely in the event of an outbreak of a scale similar to Ebola," PAHO representatives said in a joint statement.

In their statement they urged that stronger health systems were necessary overall.

No case of the Ebola virus has been reported in any Latin American or Caribbean state, but the possibility of a case being imported is something that can not be shrugged off, the representatives said. They also said WHO should play a coordinating and leadership role in strengthening global health systems.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected 21,724 people since it began in December 2013, with 8,641 people dying from Ebola hemorrhagic fever. These cases mostly come from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

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