How to Stop the Catastrophic Spread of Ebola

News of a new outbreak of Ebola in Guinea is indeed distressing. The last in West Africa occurred between 2014 and 2015 and affected Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It was the world’s deadliest Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea and in which more than 11,300 people died. Among these were over 500 health workers. But countries in the West African region are in a very different position seven years on. Liberia and Sierra Leone have already mobilised and activated their national response and preparedness plans. A clear indication that the political will is there. Countries in the region also have the experience of the past, as well as new tools to tackle Ebola. They have an experienced workforce, laboratory systems are more developed and regional organisations, such as the Mano River Union – a regional economic and security body – and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are more proactive. One of the outcomes of a 2018 planning meeting in Freetown, Sierre Leone, was to prepare for cross-border transmission. A whatsapp platform was developed that provided for real time tracking of outbreaks. It is now operational and is being used to transmit updates from Guinea to the surveillance and response teams from member countries. However, Pierre Formenty, the head of the World Health Organisation’s viral and haemorrhagic fever team, once pointed out that: the worst mistake anyone can make about Ebola is to underestimate Ebola, or to think they know all about Ebola.

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