Ebola Now an 'International Health Emergency'

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The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now an international public health emergency, World Health Organization officials announced during an emergency meeting in Switzerland on Friday.

The announcement calls for an extraordinary response to stop the deadly disease from spreading.

"This is the largest most severe and most complex outbreak in the nearly four-decade history of this disease," W.H.O. Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said at a news conference.

The WHO emergency committee reached the conclusion that the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa meets the criteria under the international health regulations for a public health emergency of international concern.

CBN News Reporter Heather Sells spoke with Dr. Bogdan Neughebauer, an infectious disease specialist with Sentara Medical Group in Virginia Beach, Virginia,  about the Ebola outbreak and what it means for Americans.  Click play for his comments.

Meanwhile, members of Congress heard about the disease's devastation from the leaders of Samaritan's Purse and SIM.  They are the Christian organizations whose missionaries, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, have contracted Ebola.

"There is no way to count all the people dying of Ebola in the villages and in remote areas," Dr. Frank Glover, a missionary with SIM, testified before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.  "The cause of death is often unknown and there exists a lot of suspicion towards Western and government health workers."

"As a result," he said, "information is often withheld from health workers. Advice on safe burial practices or abstaining from eating bats and monkeys is often times met with resistance and even violence against health workers."

Ken Isaacs, vice president of Program and Government Relations for Samaritan's Purse, also testified before the House panel.

"If we do not fight and contain this disease in West Africa, we will be fighting this disease and containing it in multiple other countries around the world," he warned. "And the truth is, the cat is most likely already out of the bag."

The confirmed death toll in West Africa is climbing toward a thousand people.

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