Why has the June 2014 outbreak of Ebola not been contained as quickly as previous outbreaks of Ebola?

Mudassir Ali
Mar 10, 2020 06:33 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Mar 10, 2020 06:33 PM

I have no special insight, but the consensus seems to be that it’s because of poor communications, and that’s because of poverty, distrust, and perhaps a bit of complacency.

Ebola is not very transmissible. It spreads through close contact with very sick or dead people. In principle, that makes it fairly straightforward to contain Ebola outbreaks. When someone is sick, they should be isolated from the community, and health-care workers (HCW) should take rigorous (but well understood) precautions.

What has happened with several previous Ebola outbreaks is that they spread extensively to close relatives and to HCW. Especially in developing countries, HCW can’t routinely wear appropriate protective gear all the time, so when Ebola strikes there are rounds of HCW becoming infected until protective gear is made available, and HCW are made aware of the need.

In 2014, that also happened to some extent, and I believe that did as usual slow down once protective gear was available. But the other part of the spread hasn’t stopped. That part is to family and friends of the patients, and according to media (as I say, I have no special insights here) it’s because of funeral practices, which involve close contact with the body (washing the body, and perhaps other factors).

What needs to happen is for everyone in the affected area to be aware of Ebola, and to understand that if a loved one dies under suspicious circumstances the normal funeral has to be changed in some way to avoid contact. It sounds as if it’s really hard to spread the word, probably because it’s in areas without a lot of good communication options, because there aren’t enough official people to travel to all the affected areas now, and even more because the local people have no reason at all to trust or believe official communications.

The complacency bit I added because it did seem as if the outbreak was going to slow down fairly quickly, as have all previous outbreaks, and it sounds as if communication efforts didn’t ramp up fast enough or far enough to keep things under control. But it’s hard to be really critical; the underlying issues are poverty, lack of infrastructure, and distrust of authority, and those issues derail almost everything, everywhere.

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