A lot has been said about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa in recent days, particularly by people in power and people “in the know”. I selected a few key quotes to look at.
First, there is Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) who wrote at length about the largest ever Ebola outbreak Saturday.
She answers the following questions in her Op-Ed–What does this outbreak, which has been making headlines for months, tell us about the state of the world at large? What does it tell world leaders, and the citizens who elect them, about the state and status of public health? She answers with six responses- her third answer I want to spotlight:
“Third, when a deadly and dreaded virus hits the destitute and spirals out of control, the whole world is put at risk. Our 21st-century societies are interconnected, interdependent, and electronically wired together as never before. We see this particularly with the very dangerous outbreak in Nigeria’s oil and natural gas hub. Nigeria is the world’s fourth largest oil producer and second largest supplier of natural gas. The outbreak in the country’s energy hub can potentially dampen economic outlooks worldwide.”
In Sierra Leone government will put it’s citizens on a three-day mandatory lockdown (Sept. 18-21) in an attempt to to get the EVD outbreak under control and locate and isolate new cases. Sounds reasonable? Maybe. However, the group that has a great deal of experience with this particular outbreak as they have been up to their elbows in it right from the beginning tends to think this is not the greatest idea. That of course is Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors without Borders.
A MSF spokeswoman said, “It has been our experience that lockdowns and quarantines do not help control Ebola as they end up driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers. This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up seeding the disease further.”
We have heard predictions in the past weeks that this outbreak could last another 6-9 months. However, a Georgetown University Medical Center professor and expert on viral outbreaks offers a more dire prediction. Dr. Daniel Lucey, who spent several weeks in Sierra Leone evaluating and treating Ebola patients said, “I don’t believe that our traditional methods of being able to control and stop outbreaks in rural areas … is going to be effective in most of the cities. While the World Health Organization has released a plan to stop Ebola transmission within six to nine months, “I think that this outbreak is going to go on even longer than a year,” Lucey said.
And lastly, US President Barack Obama said on today’s “Meet the Press” that the US military will join the fight against the fast-spreading Ebola in Africa. Mr. Obama told host Chuck Todd, “We’re going to have to get US military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there, to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world. If we do that, then it’s still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa,” he said.
However, he added, “if we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates. It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”