WHO declares ebola Public Health Emergency of International Concern

An emergency committee with the World Health Organization officially declared on Friday that the ebola outbreak in West Africa is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The declaration, made after two days of teleconferences, could trigger a coordinated international response to fight the disease.

The unanimous decision by the committee said that the ebola outbreak constitutes an "extraordinary event" and a public health risk to other countries, and that the possible consequences of the disease spreading are particularly serious in light of ebola's virulence and the weak health systems in the affected and most at-risk countries. The committee advised that an international response is necessary to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.

The WHO also convened a panel of medical ethics experts on Monday to begin looking at the use of experimental ebola treatments in West Africa. Two U.S. health workers who recently contracted ebola are receiving treatment at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., but there are currently no registered medicines or vaccines designed to fight the virus.

A WHO update on the ebola outbreak released on Friday indicated that 68 new cases of the virus, with 29 deaths, were reported between Aug. 5-6 in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.