FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Spread of Ebola

by

As the Ebola epidemic is claiming increasing number of victims, there is widespread concern that efforts to contain it are inadequate. New and more effective measures are needed to combat one of the most dangerous epidemics of modern times. “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it,” stated Doctors Without Borders International President Dr. Joanne Liu.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s anguished letter to President Barak Obama, urging the U.S. Government to take a more aggressive policy to combat this deadly epidemic, stated the situation in clear terms, “Without help from your government,” she wrote, “we will lose this battle against Ebola.” Losing this battle means that not only the initially affected countries will lose numerous lives, but that many other countries will be affected as well.

The Liberian scenario is paradigmatic: While infections are rapidly spreading in the country, it is affecting an already weak health care system which has proven unable to contain the spread of the infection. So far, more than half of the recorded deaths from Ebola have taken place in Liberia.

In the meantime, rather than providing direct aid to the affected countries, western countries are mainly concerned about their own safety by closing airlines, claim aid workers. “The main objective here is not to dramatically increase the person’s chance of survival, it’s to contain the spread,” said Dr. Gabriel Fitzpatrick, who is working at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Sierra Leone.

To contain the infection some basic public health actions should be followed: Identify those who are sick or suspected of being sick; isolate them; treat those who are sick with available means; and trace the contacts and keep them under observation. In addition, it is critical to conduct public sensitization campaigns, informing the public of what conduct they should follow to avoid being infected and eliminating myths and misconceptions about the disease.

In addition, it is critical to instill in West Africans a sense of trust and help eliminate in them unreasonable fears and a sense that they are isolated from the rest of world, at a time in which their own institutions are crumbling. As Liberia’s defense minister told the UN Security Council, “Liberia is facing a serious threat to national existence.”

It is important to follow a set of guidelines developed by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent and control the spread of Ebola. The Manual, entitled Infection Control for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting describes how to recognize cases of viral hemorrhagic fever such as Ebola and how to prevent transmission of the infection in healthcare settings by using locally available materials and minimal financial resources.

Because of the variety of actors involved, coordination of actions is essential. “Coordination saves lives,” said David Nabarro, from the United Nations’ Secretary General Office, in charge of coordinating the response to Ebola across the entire UN system.

So far, experts on infectious diseases have criticized the industrialized countries’ inadequate response to the epidemic. Although the US has promised technical help, its sending troops can be seen as interference in other countries security affairs, in a region of the world which is particularly sensitive to these issues. Bringing military personnel is not the best way to build confidence in the countries most affected by the infection. Doctors and nurses are most needed, in addition to other personnel in charge of education and communication issues.

In addition, the US needs to coordinate its response with countries such as Cuba and China, which have promised to send health workers, as well as international financial institutions such as the World Bank, which has promised significant financial support.

If it is not properly contained, Ebola can spread out of control. As Tom Frieden, CDC’s director stated recently, “There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down, but that window is closing.”

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant for several UN agencies.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail