The Ebola outbreak continues to infect people and take lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are now 3,500 people infected and more than 1,900 deaths; though this number changes daily.
The outbreak now includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. The WHO estimates that the number of cases could reach 20,000 and six to nine months before the Ebola outbreak is contained. How can medical personnel and affected nations combat this disease?
Ebola Containment Roadmap
The WHO has outlined a ‘roadmap’ to combat the disease. According to the WHO’s new guidance, the goal is to “stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months and to prevent international spread.”
The document list three objectives; the first is to have full geographic coverage of Ebola response intervention activities in countries that have widespread and intense transmission. The second objective is to make sure that emergency and immediate use of Ebola response interventions in countries that begin to see their first case or those countries with localized transmission. The third objective is to strengthen the preparedness of all countries to be able to quickly identify and respond to an Ebola exposure.
Each of these three objectives list specific activities that will help in the achievement of the stated objectives – and hopefully stop the transmission of Ebola in six to nine months.
Lack of Medical Resources
According to USA Today, the countries that are dealing with this outbreak don’t have adequate resources. There aren’t enough hospital beds or ambulances – and people are hungry. The WHO is holding an emergency meeting Thursday, September 3, 2014 and Friday September 4, 2014 to discuss options.
The WHO has decided to pay cash for salaries and to provide essential trucks and other vehicles to deliver supplies. However, airlines have
canceled flights, making it difficult for public health workers to get to the affected countries – and boats won’t dock in these nations either, as fears of a widespread outbreak continue.
According to the NY Times, Dr. Joanne Liu, the president of Doctors Without Borders met with Dr. Margert Chan, director general of the World Health Organization met this summer and Dr. Chan said that the WHO did not have sufficient manpower or the ability to send enough help to the affected areas.
The World Health Organization is the United Nations health agency. According to the WHO’s website, they are:
“Responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.”
However, the WHO’s outbreak and emergency response units has been weakened by budget cuts which results in the inability to fully respond to health situations around the world.
Dr. Chan explains that the country’s government has the main responsibility and the WHO is there for support; however she agrees that the WHO was not prepared. Dr. Chan tells the NY Times, “Hindsight is always better. All the agencies I talked to — including the governments — all of us underestimated this unprecedented, unusual outbreak.”
Unprecedented Ebola Outbreak
Dr. Chan describes this outbreak as, “”the largest and most severe and most complex we have ever seen.” She goes on to add that, “No-one, even outbreak responders with experience dating back to 1976, to 1995, people that were directly involved with those outbreaks, none of them have ever seen anything like it.”
There are many organizations and agencies trying to fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history, but still, there isn’t enough manpower or money. The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting on September 4-5, 2014. Will this response be enough to stop the Ebola outbreak in its tracks, or will the death toll continue? With the number of aid workers small, and a lack of financial support, it seems unlikely that the WHO roadmap will lead to success.