The Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 10,000 lives in West Africa, has served as a point of analysis of current public health and disease control systems: namely, their lack of presence. This has served to highlight the need for increased preparedness and protocol in the case of future epidemics which have the potential to be even more lethal. Ebola, Gates notes, requires physical contact for transmission as well as active symptoms. Drawing comparisons to the Spanish flu which killed approximately 30 million people in 1918, diseases that are either airborne or are contagious before the onset of symptoms are a great threat to our increasingly mobile society and require adequate systems in place to control an outbreak in the future. While conversations about Ebola have centered primarily on whether the WHO or the CDC responded effectively do not highlight the fact that there are very rudimentary and ill structured systems to address a crisis of this size. The Ebola crisis made clear that there is little protocol for essential functions of disease control in vulnerable regions such as volunteer deployment, transportation of patients, diagnostic procedures, and data collection.
Gates calls for increasing infrastructural capacity and encouraging the development of global warning symptoms for epidemics. Local health systems need to be adequately prepared and strengthened in order for these measures to be effective. In addition, there must be a more efficient way to have medical professionals and experts on call, standard deployment measures, organized data collection measures, and emergency resources ready and accessible. More>>