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ID week: Ebola opinion piece

Ebola Opinion Piece

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a severe disease first identified in 1976. It is transmitted from person-person via all bodily fluids such as blood, sweat and urine. The average case fatality of Ebola is 50% however has been recorded as being as high as 90%. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014-


2016) saw over 28,000 confirmed Ebola cases and over 11,000 deaths. Challenges faced in treating and preventing the spread of Ebola in 2014-2016 included scarcities of resources and healthcare workers, and in some cases a lack of belief to the new emergence of the disease. The spread of Ebola was accelerated by cultural burial practice, as well as a focus on caring for ill relatives, meaning the virus often spread to family members very quickly, then further to wider communities. These factors, although posed real challenges, lead in some cases to a problematic blame culture in terms of disease spread and management, and may have hindered the global media and medical/ humanitarian response to the virus outbreak. Despite amazing efforts from global health groups, humanitarian initiatives and medical charities, the overall international response to Ebola was sadly lacking, and this may have been for a number of reasons. The relative confinement of EVD to West African countries (mainly Sierra Leone and Liberia), created a physical and figurative divide between the communities affected and the out


side world.

The communities struck by Ebola were most often poorer and more isolated, not within the Western world, which commonly warrants a diminished response from the media and international community (other than a focus on how people in the western world may be affected by such a virus) – an “Us vs Them” mentality. This idea is discussed further in the Ted Talk linked below from Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, an MSF doctor involved at the forefront of the medical response to Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Overall a more compassionate and understanding response from media and the international community to these outbreaks is vital in providing just and effective help to those who need it most. Click below to watch the Tedx talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibKo2itlU-Q


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