GENEVA/KINSHASA - The Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo can be brought under control and is not an international public health emergency, experts advising the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Earlier in the day the WHO had said the first confirmation of Ebola in Mbandaka, a city of about 1.5 million people, had prompted it to declare a "very high" public health risk to the country and a "high" risk to the region.
But the WHO's Emergency Committee of 11 experts said the rapid response had mitigated the risk from the outbreak, which was declared 10 days ago and has killed 25 people since early April.
"Interventions underway provide strong reason to believe that the outbreak can be brought under control," the committee said in a statement.
They decided not to declare a "public health emergency of international concern" (PHEIC), a formal alert that puts governments on notice and helps mobilize resources and research.
However, committee chairman Robert Steffen said the "vigorous" outbreak response must continue.
"Without that, the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly," he told a news conference in Geneva.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity and an infectious diseases expert, said the decision not to declare an emergency was "the right one for the time being," but should be kept under review.
"We can't predict how the outbreak will progress, and the WHO must keep the situation under frequent review and not hesitate to declare a PHEIC if the situation shows signs of deteriorating," he said in a statement.
The outbreak, Congo's ninth since the disease made its first known appearance near the northern Ebola river in the 1970s, has raised concerns that the virus could spread downstream to the capital Kinshasa, with a population of 10 million.