What we’re reading: Changes needed to stop Ebola, other threats of pan-epidemic potential

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Health-care worker infections add to Ebola challenge in Congo – The challenges arising when a new Ebola outbreak surfaces in an area where the virus hasn’t been seen before include the exposure of frontline health workers without experience in necessary detection and protection measures. The resulting infections among medical staff who are needed most and in the shortest supply in remote and conflict-ridden regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo only add to layers of complication and tragedy threatening efforts to control the country’s 10th outbreak of the disease, Dr. Daniel Lucey writes in this Hill opinion piece. Drawing on memories of the horrific conditions hampering efforts to save lives during his two stints during the West Africa outbreak, he writes that this outbreak shows once again that bolstering disease detection and response capacities to equitable standards everywhere is the only way to assure containing the next pathogen of pandemic potential.

Outbreaks in a rapidly changing Central Africa – Lessons from Ebola – Fast-growing cities and populations on the move reflect increasing opportunities for economic growth, as well as increasing opportunities for the spread of diseases. Investments in health systems across the continent, though, have yet to reflect recognition of those realities, the authors of this New England Journal of Medicine perspective piece write.

Global vigilance, and funds needed to prevent pandemics – This piece from the online MPH program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University looks at the payoffs of preparedness, in Nigeria when the arrival of Ebola there presented the possibility of a catastrophic scenario, and in Liberia when in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis, a swift public health response to a meningitis outbreak made all the difference. While levels of preparedness in those places, however, remains the exception, rather than the rule, the Global Health Security Agenda’s work is far from complete.

An “indefensible” decision: Not vaccinating pregnant and lactating women in an Ebola outbreak – Back to equity as a critical factor in controlling Ebola and other pathogens. True, not a great deal is known on the possible affects the new investigational vaccine against Ebola might have on developing fetuses and infants. Also true — a lot is known by now on the protection offered by the vaccine which is only being administered to people at risk of infection, and helps protect not only the people receiving it, but also their contacts. Denying it to women, and putting hypothetical harms to infants ahead of access to proven prevention is “utterly indefensible,” this opinion piece in STAT says, and a poor approach to public health.

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