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Panel of Experts Criticizes WHO’s Response to the Ebola Crisis

Update Date: Nov 23, 2015 11:36 AM EST

A panel of global health experts has criticized how the World Health Organization (WHO) handled the West African Ebola epidemic, which started to get out of control in March 2014. Signs of Ebola were already apparent in December 2013.

The panel, assembled by Harvard's Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), stated in the report that the United Nations' health agency's slow response at alerting others about the outbreak was an "egregious failure." The outbreak caused "immense human suffering, fear and chaos," factors that were then "largely unchecked."

"People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring...and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency," Ashish K. Jha, director of the HGHI, said reported by CNN. "The cost of the delay was enormous."

The panel of 19 experts outlined guidelines for dealing with infectious disease outbreaks throughout the world. They also focused on prevention tactics the. Some of the recommendations included starting a U.N. Security Council health committee that would be in charge of expediting attention and alarm once health problems surface and offering incentives so that countries would rather report than hide infectious disease cases. There were a total of 10 key recommendations.

"We need to strengthen core capacities in all countries to detect, report and respond rapidly to small outbreaks in order to prevent them from becoming large-scale emergencies," Peter Piot, LSHTM's director and the chair of the panel, concluded reported by Reuters.

WHO responded to the report, stating via the Wall Street Journal, "A number of its recommendations cover work that is already being done-including steps set in place by WHO in early 2015. It is gratifying to see that there is consensus of thought on many of these key issues, but some will need further review and discussion."

The panel's findings were released one day after Liberia confirmed three new cases of Ebola, which stemmed from one case involving a 10-year-old boy. The country had declared in September that they were free of the virus.

The Ebola outbreak killed more than 11,300 people from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Liberia had the highest death tool at 4,808.

The report was published in the journal, The Lancet.

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