Despite reports of Ebola cases in Mosul in several Iraqi media sources last week, the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have confirmed today that no cases of the disease have so far been found in the country.
“All sources contacted have negated the existence of any suspected cases of Ebola,” the WHO said in a statement. “The (Iraqi) Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization further confirmed that the laboratory facilities in Mosul do not have the necessary capabilities to diagnose and confirm the Ebola virus.”
Reports of suspected Ebola cases appeared on Dec. 31 in Iraq’s Al-Sabah newspaper, Rudaw online newspaper and on the Shafaq news agency. Those claims quickly made international headlines, prompting the WHO to launch an official probe alongside the Health Ministry.
The virus spreading through Iraq would have raised immediate concerns for both the local population and American troops who recently began training the Iraqi military. According to the now-discredited reports, the virus was said to have been brought to Iraq by Islamic State (ISIS) militants and other migrants coming to the country from Africa.
Describing those claims as “rumors,” the United Nations health agency said it and the Health Ministry had conducted a full investigation through surveillance networks and contacts with medical sources in Mosul, and found that there were no cases of the virus.
It said both agencies had mounted a coordinated effort to to prevent the disease from entering Iraq and ensure that any possible future cases are detected immediately.
“The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization remain vigilant and have scaled up surveillance efforts to ensure early detection and safe management of any eventual suspected EVD cases in the country,” the statement said, stressing the precautionary measures being taken to ensure effective preventive program are in place.
The statement lists actions taken by the WHO and the Ministry of Health, including assessments of international entry points like airports and ports, strengthened surveillance at health facilities, and the development of a contingency and response plan.
Ebola has killed more than 8,200 people in the current outbreak, which started in Guinea in December 2013 and spilled over into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014. Those three countries account for almost all of the cases and deaths, although isolated clusters of transmission have also been confirmed in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Spain, and the United States.