The Atlantic Council yesterday convened a panel of experts from the U.S. government and beyond for “Combating the Ebola Outbreak: Lessons Learned From and Prospects For the International Response.” They came from the Departments of State and Defense, the CDC, Water Reed Army Institute of Research, and Aspen Healthcare Services, all organizations that have been instrumental in the international response to the Ebola outbreak. Each body has worked tirelessly to cover every aspect of the now global crisis, from coordinating the many countries aiding in the struggle, to striving to provide a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as possible. The State Department in particular has been focusing on an array of areas, helping facilitate funds and supplies from numerous public and private sources, but also working to ensure that America is prepared to fend off any spread of the disease on U.S. soil. The support for West Africa from the rest of the world has been incredible. To name one example, Timor-Leste, the small Pacific island republic, has committed $1,000,000 to help alleviate the countries most affected.
And what about the medical response? Donald Shriber of CDC Global Health first pointed out that “the West African epidemic really is unprecedented in its scope and scale,” doubling in victims every three weeks with no signs of slowing. Since most of the international and American response has only started in the last months, Ebola has a deadly head start. But Shriber also noted that it does not spread easily, and the CDC feels confident that the global community can stop it with a significant scale-u of isolation and treatment capacity in the the three main states affected: Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia.
There are two potential Ebola vaccines that exist currently, and both have been shown to be 100% effective at preventing infection in animal trials. Although the entire development process is being accelerated, they have not yet been tested on humans. This raises many ethical problems, since clearly the demand in West Africa is urgent, but the vaccines might not work, or worse, they might increase susceptibility to Ebola. At a recent European summit, the World Health Organization voted to commence randomly controlled human trials in West Africa, meaning that some patients will be knowingly given a fake vaccine as a control.
Overall, the panel concluded that the Ebola outbreak will get worse before it gets better. Many of the lessons that the international community is learning now can be brought to bear on the next crisis, to prevent such a rapid spread. As Col. Nelson Michael from Walter Reed said, “it is time for us to concentrate hard on what we can do” to stop Ebola.
To find out more about the Ebola outbreak, and why Ebola is such a dangerous disease, go here.
Photo Credit to Tony Elumlelu Foundation