“Preparing for the next global outbreak”
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine discusses infectious diseases and the impacts of their outbreaks on the globe. Learn what experts have to say about Zika, Ebola, and Polio, and their reflections on SARS and H1N1 influenza from Meera Senthilingam's article:
Imagine if one day something changed that would completely alter the way you live your life, day in, day out, through no choice of your own. It determines where you go, who you see, what you do — and none of it is within your control.
Take it one step further and envision a situation that created a new way of life not just for you, but also for your entire society, and denial would only make it worse. If you — or anyone else — didn’t listen, you or your loved ones could be affected and at worst, die.
This may sound like some form of military dictatorship, but the villain in this scenario is not a human, but rather a miniscule particle unseen by the naked eye. The scenario is not uncommon: it’s the harsh reality of an infectious disease outbreak.
Just one infected person is all it takes in today’s increasingly globalised world to harbour, and spread, a minute pathogen against which you, and your entire population, have no means of protection. What soon follows is struggle, confusion and panic as people fear being wiped out from the world they know and love in an instant.
The culprit is most commonly a virus.
The article dives into what can be learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa:
There have been four PHEICs to date, one of which was the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Though predominantly limited to the region of West Africa, the severity of the disease and news of its more widespread transmission caused panic across the world.
The arrival of the virus in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in March 2014 changed the nature of these populations. It took away their intimacy and blocked their traditional experiences of human touch, forcing them to instead build walls between loved ones. Each person became their own enclosed vessel through which they witnessed hundreds of people drop in front of their eyes from something they had never heard of before. They saw sudden fever, vomiting, and sometimes bleeding from various orifices without real insight as to why this was happening — at least at first.
“If Ebola had been identified and control measures put in place within a few weeks, it would have been eminently controllable with standard public health measures,” says Prof Whitworth. Swift control was the case for other Ebola outbreaks that took place in different regions of Africa since the first recorded cases in 1976, and even a separate outbreak in 2014 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.