UK & World News
Ebola An International Health Emergency - WHO
The World Health Organisation has declared the current ebola outbreak in West Africa an international health emergency.
The Geneva-based United Nations health agency said the possible consequences of further international spread of the outbreak, which has killed almost 1,000 people in four West African countries, are "particularly serious" in view of the virulence of the disease.
It says it is essential to have a coordinated international response in order to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said the announcement is "a clear call for international solidarity" but acknowledged that many countries would probably not have any ebola cases.
"Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own," Dr Chan said.
"I urge the international community to provide this support on the most urgent basis possible."
The declaration is the result of a week-long meeting by experts to decide the severity of the situation.
It is not clear what - if any - impact the WHO's declaration will have.
The US Centers Disease for Control and Prevention has already raised its ebola response to the highest level and has urged people not to travel to West Africa.
CDC boss Dr Tom Frieden told US politicians that the current outbreak was likely to affect more people than all previous outbreaks of the disease combined.
Professor David Heymann, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who directed WHO's response to the Sars outbreak, said: "I don't know what the advantage is of declaring an international emergency.
"This could bring in more foreign aid but we don't know that yet."
The current outbreak of ebola began in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for ebola and the death rate has been around 50%.
On Thursday, a Spanish missionary priest infected with ebola became the first person to be treated in Europe during the deadly outbreak.
Miguel Pajares, who contracted it while helping ebola patients at a hospital in Liberian capital Monrovia, is in hospital in Madrid after being flown in along with Spanish nun, Juliana Bonoha Bohe, who had been working with him but who has not tested positive.
Two Americans who worked for Christian aid agencies in Liberia and were infected with ebola while taking care of patients in Monrovia were recently flown to the US for treatment.
They have shown signs of improvement after being given an experimental US-developed drug known as ZMapp, which is difficult to produce on a large scale.