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Wits scientist advises WHO on Ebola outbreak in DRC

- Wits University

The World Health Organization has appointed Wits Professor Helen Rees to its Emergency Committee on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the statement of the October 2018 meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee on the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ministry of Health of the DRC on 1 August notified the WHO of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in North Kivu province and cases were also subsequently found in Ituri Province:

“From 4 May to 15 October 2018, 216 EVD cases were reported, of which 181 are confirmed and 35 are probable; 139 total deaths have occurred, of which 104 are confirmed and 35 are probable. The global case fatality rate stands at 64% overall, and at 57% among confirmed cases. Nine neighbouring countries have been advised that they are at high risk of spread and have been supported with equipment and personnel. Particular emphasis has been placed on Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan in terms of preparedness activities,” according to the statement.

About Professor Helen Rees

Professor Helen Rees

Rees is the Executive Director of the University of Witwatersrand’s largest research institute, Wits RHI. She is globally recognised for her work on HIV, vaccines and reproductive health.

She was a member of the WHO Review Committee on the Role of the International Health Regulations (2005) in the Ebola Outbreak and Response, tasked with making recommendations to the WHO about steps required to improve the global response to public health emergencies. She is the Co-Chair of the WHO SAGE Working Group on Ebola Vaccines and Co-chaired the WHO High-Level Meeting on Ebola Vaccines with the Director-General of the WHO. 

Rees has won many international and national awards for her contribution to global health and to science. She was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II and received one of South Africa’s highest awards, the South African National Order of the Baobab, for her contribution to medicine and to medical research.