Signs of Ebola control, cautious optimism reflect lessons, missed opportunities, continuing gaps

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More than two million travelers checked at 37 points of entry — airports, river ports, and border crossings —  between the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring countries. More than six thousand people who had contact with the sick, including health workers, or with others who had contact with them, vaccinated. Three different investigational treatment approaches given, so far, to 22 people. And at least 93 people so far confirmed to be infected with Ebola in the DRC, more than half of them now dead.

Signs greeted with reserved optimism this week that efforts to control and stem the impacts of the latest outbreak of the virus are beginning to succeed, didn’t come easy. Nor did they come quickly.

Stemming from lessons learned over the 42 years since the virus was identified in the country then known as Zaire, the efforts represent improved capacities and responsiveness of local and international entities, in the course of outbreaks across rural areas that took more than 700 lives in that country alone, before the explosion of the virus into West African capital cities killed more than 11,000 people. They represent an international acknowledgement that the risks of neglect and delay are unacceptably high and that the costs are unconscionable. The efforts that have so far ameliorated the impacts of the current outbreak reflect work to launch a Global Health Security Agenda to strengthen infectious disease preparedness, that began before the 2013-to-2016 Ebola crisis across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia was recognized, and work that continues in the absence of outbreaks. But, in the continuing numbers that can be tracked — and translated — daily here, the current outbreak continues to tell the story of challenges that remain unknown, and unmet.

5 thoughts on “Signs of Ebola control, cautious optimism reflect lessons, missed opportunities, continuing gaps

  1. Joseph N Fair

    I have worked in DRC for 10 years and was one of the first and longest-serving responders in West Africa. I fail to see how GHSA impacted this outbreak in any way whatsoever. The difference in DRC is they are enormously experienced and have learned their own lessons learned. They secured and continue to secure resources for their efforts from sovereign governments and through research. Developed nations should not claim the DRC’s hard work and efforts as their own in attempts to secure additional funding for huge programs.

    Reply
    1. Antigone Barton Post author

      The post notes local responses and capacities, as previous posts have credited the DRC with applying years of experience to improved responses. The GHSA is an international partnership, and the intent was not to credit “developed nations” but the partnership that specifically targets outbreak preparedness with training and laboratory resources, including in the DRC, and has among other efforts helped the neighboring countries, including Uganda improve surveillance efforts.

      Reply
      1. Joseph Fair

        If you say so. I’ve worked there before and after and know GHSA well. I can’t say that I saw anything that GHSA did that was not already present.

        Reply
        1. Antigone Barton Post author

          Perhaps the post oversimplified. The GHSA has built capacities and relationships, including with help from the DRC, that have helped strengthen responses. Through the GHSA, epidemiologists from the DRC, which is a partner, helped train contact tracers in Guinea during the West Africa outbreak. In turn, health workers from Guinea who gained experience in administering Ebola vaccines during that outbreak came to the DRC when Ebola vaccination campaigns began there during outbreak preceding the current one.

          Reply
          1. Joseph Fair

            I guess I have different memories of how that happened. I was working directly in the offices the WHO and Ministry offices where we (I was personally involved in writing the asks to DRC) wrote our long- time colleagues in the DRC and asked for EPI help. Perhaps GHSA was involved in some way, just none of us were aware. We asked because of 10-20 year relationships and DRC’s own expertise. I’m still not sure how GHSA can claim credit for that. DTRA did pay for much of their travel, so if that is the link, then GHSA did help.

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