In July 2018, the arrival in Lagos, Nigeria of a man sick with Ebola represented a pivotal moment in the crisis that already was ravaging families, communities, health systems and economies across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The outbreak of the virus, which had started the previous December, unnoticed by the larger world with the illness of a boy bitten by a fruit bat in a forested area of Guinea, had already reached unprecedented levels traveling across porous borders and into the capitals of the three countries. But now, with its arrival in Africa’s most populous city, the potential for the outbreak to explode across the continent and around the world posed a terrifying prospect and a daunting challenge.
As it happened, it was a challenge that was met by local resources strengthened by years of intensive efforts to fight HIV and polio there, and the outbreak in Nigeria was declared ended within three months, as the crisis continued in the three hardest hit countries.
It may come as a surprise now, to learn that recent evaluations show Nigeria less ready than two of those countries — Liberia and Sierra Leone — and roughly on a par with the third, Guinea — to find, stop and prevent the next outbreak of an infectious disease to start, or land within its borders.
This is just one of the discoveries offered by PreventEpidemics.org, a site presenting findings from Joint External Evaluations of outbreak preparedness, the World Health Organization’s measure of nations’ ability to protect themselves and the world from the spread of diseases with pandemic potential.
A project of Resolve to Save Lives, the initiative launched by former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden, PreventEpidemics.org calls itself “the world’s first website to provide clear and concise country-level data on epidemic preparedness.” In addition to country level scores on national abilities to identify, monitor, and control outbreaks, it provides up-to-date news of current outbreaks.