Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Tide turning in Ebola fight

Published:Sunday | January 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A empty Ebola virus decontamination zone at the Hastings treatment clinic as Ebola infection's decrease in Freetown, Sierra Leone,

A top United Nations official in the fight against Ebola greeted just three patients at one treatment centre he visited last week in Sierra Leone. Families in Liberia are no longer required to cremate the remains of loved ones to halt the spread of the virulent disease.

And in the streets of Guinea's capital, it is rare to see the formerly ubiquitous plastic buckets of bleach and water for hand washing.

Ten months after it dawned on health officials that they were facing an unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa, experts and officials agree the tide is turning, although previous lulls have proved short-lived.


still no vaccine


There is still no vaccine or licensed treatment, nor is it clear whether the international community has actually learnt any lessons from an epidemic that killed at least 8,675 people.

"Things have changed drastically for the better- no one can deny that," said Aitor Sanchez Lacomba, Liberia country director for the International Rescue Committee. "How can we make sure that we don't have these kinds of situations in the future?"


previous outbreaks


Previous disease outbreaks, including SARS and bird flu, prompted calls to build strong health surveillance systems and to reinforce agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO). But little has changed.

After the 2009 swine flu pandemic, WHO commissioned an independent review, which recommended creating a $100 million emergency fund for health crises and beefing up rapid-response health experts. Neither has been done.