Friday, January 2, 2015

EBOLA: After Slow Response, WHO Seeks to Avoid Repeat

The tepid initial response to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak exposed holes in the global health system so gaping it has prompted the World Health Organization to consider steps to prevent a repeat, including emergency-response teams and a fund for public-health crises.
A government-hospital worker in Kenema, Sierra Leone, 
checks the temperature of a girl suspected of being infected 
with the Ebola virus. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
In a special session next month in Geneva, the WHO’s executive board is expected to consider those and other recommendations by its member countries—including a proposal that it commission an outside review of its Ebola response—according to a document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The plan comes as global health officials are struggling with a knotty question: how the WHO could have moved at a slow pace initially despite lessons learned more than a decade ago from another deadly outbreak, of SARS.
That virus killed hundreds after surfacing in China in 2002. But the WHO acted more quickly and decisively back then, international public-health specialists generally agree. And the global health system put measures in place afterward that were supposed to help it respond even more quickly to such outbreaks.
Many aspects of Ebola’s spread trace to crippling local lapses, such as strikes by body collectors who left diseased corpses on the streets. And known diseases like Ebola tend to cause less alarm than diseases like SARS that are new and airborne. Ebola, which spreads through bodily fluids, has been causing human outbreaks since 1976.
But some global health officials say an overly cautious WHO bureaucracy was another factor in Ebola’s unchecked spread early on. Among other contributing problems at the United Nations agency, they say, were its lack of authority over its regional network and budget cutbacks.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan says the agency, “like the rest of the world,” was slow to respond to the outbreak. “With the benefit of hindsight, WHO could have mounted a more robust response,” she says in an email relayed by a spokesman.
The Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 7,800 people so far, is part of a new reality: Contagions in countries with rickety health systems can threaten those with the most-advanced medical care, though developed countries have prevented major Ebola outbreaks thus far.
Next month’s WHO special session will seek to face that reality by forming better defenses against deadly pathogens.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

If you like what you see, please "Like" us on Facebook either here or here. Please follow us on Twitter here.

No comments: