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>>
Obama announced the removal of almost all troops from the fight against Ebola in West Africa, while encouraged continued vigilance of the recent epidemic. In order to continue to mitigate the outbreak, civilian workers of government agencies, volunteers, and approximately 100 military personnel will remain on duty. The president thanked the service men and women for their efforts to contain the outbreak, and that the US will continue to work towards eradication of Ebola. He also recognized the dedication of volunteers who have continued invaluable work in West Africa despite threats to health and personal safety.
Evidence suggests that the spread of Ebola in West Africa –especially Liberia—has been slowing considerably. The epidemic, estimated to reach 1 million deaths, has claimed about 9,000. Recent reporting states there have been only a about a dozen in the past three weeks. More>>
The worst Ebola epidemic in history has infected more than 3,069 individuals, claimed 1500 lives, and caused immeasurable panic and fear. With the virus spreading unabated throughout Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, top global health figures have assumed active roles in beseeching world leaders and medical organizations to provide urgent assistance in combating the epidemic.
In a recent conference, Doctors without Borders International President Joanne Liu declared that the “world is losing the battle to contain (the virus),” and she faulted world leaders for their failure to assist the West African governments struggling to manage the outbreaks. Similarly, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden has advocated for the urgent increase in large-scale containment efforts, as the “window of opportunity” to contain the virus is quickly closing.
According to these leaders, several issues have contributed to the expanse of the Ebola epidemic. According to Dr. Liu, fragmented health systems and scant resources have rendered West African health centers ill-equipped to handle the rising number of cases. In several areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone, residents have rioted over the poor living conditions in isolation units, high numbers of medical workers infected with the virus, and presence of infected bodies in town streets.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, has also called for urgent action, and outlined a six-month, $490 million plan that would require thousands of medical providers working on the ground in West Africa to halt the Ebola outbreak. The United States government has also contributed $24.9 million to Mapp Biopharmaceutical Company to fund the production and testing of ZMapp, the experimental treatment that successfully aided the recovery of two Ebola infected Americans. More >>
A key recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s response is making polio-vaccination documents mandatory for anyone travelling out of ten countries in regions where polio has been detected recently. The proposal is part of efforts to achieve the global goal of eradicating polio by 2018. But it would also be one more barrier for migrants — especially those fleeing armed conflict or human rights violations. A possible solution is vaccination facilities for refugees and others forced to migrate. more>>
While great strides are being made to halt the spread of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, women and girls continue to bear a disproportionate and unacceptable burden of the disease. A new public-private partnership agreement between the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a nonprofit product developer, and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, a major research-based pharmaceutical company – could help address this and ensure women have the tools to protect themselves from infection. more>>
Just weeks before the start of the World Cup, Brazil was responding to concerns that international visitors could get infected with dengue fever and bring the disease back to their home nations.
“This year, dengue transmission has been much more significant in Sao Paulo than in other years,” says Nancy Marcal Bastos de Souza, a biologist who works with the city authorities. “We spray neighborhoods where we have a confirmed case of someone contracting dengue so we know there are dengue-carrying mosquitoes there,” she says. more>>