UN chief: Better early warning needed for disease outbreaks

Ban Ki-moon says he will engage UN members to explore what can be done to stay ahead of the next outbreak of disease

Ban Ki-moon says he will engage UN members to explore what can be done to stay ahead of the next outbreak of disease

NEW YORK - The international community needs better early warning and rapid response mechanisms to counter future disease outbreaks similar to Ebola, the UN Secretary-General said Monday.

Ban Ki-moon, who recently visited countries in West Africa hardest hit by Ebola, told reporters that the latest outbreak of the disease was unique in the sense that it spread via dozens of isolated chains of transmission instead of one outbreak spreading from its epicenter.

“I intend to engage member states in a serious effort to explore what more we can do to stay ahead of the next outbreak of disease, a test that is sure to come,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 7,500 lives since the first known case of the current outbreak in West Africa last December, according to the World Health Organization.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the countries hardest hit by the current outbreak.

It was also the first large-scale Ebola outbreak to demonstrate the potential for the virus to spread beyond Africa – a risk raised by the ease and high rate of international travel.

“Ebola is a terrible disease that denies the humanity of its victims and stigmatizes its survivors. But I also saw almost superhuman acts of kindness and support,” said Ban, who also visited Ghana and Mali.

“Ebola caregivers should be praised, not shunned. People who have traveled to Ebola-affected countries and have no signs of infection, are no threat,” he said.

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