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Global response to Ebola inadequate, says WHO

The WHO also recommends having in place capacities for early detection of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases and adequate response mechanisms to become “an integral part of well-functioning health systems.”  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned that no single control intervention is sufficient to bring an epidemic of the scale and complexity of Ebola under control.

Assessing the global response to the Ebola outbreak and suggesting steps forward, the WHO has published 14 papers that assess the conditions that led to the spread of the deadly virus that has killed over 8,000 people in the affected regions.

It notes that the response to the virus was inadequate and despite the severity of the problem, “essential surveillance, laboratory, data management, and other capacities” were not in place in many of the member states.

“As the Ebola outbreak has revealed, the world did not respond to these recommendations, with none of these measures fully in place to support a response that could last for many more months to come ... As a result, the WHO went into battle against this virus with no army of reinforcements to support a sustained response, [and] no war chest to fund a surge, and [with] weapons that date back to the Middle Ages,” it says.

Control measures

To ward off future outbreaks, it has suggested all control measures to work in synchronism. It has also cautioned that countries with weak health systems and meagre basic public health infrastructure cannot withstand sudden shocks such as Ebola.

“Under the weight of Ebola, health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone collapsed. People stopped receiving — or stopped seeking — health care for other disease, like malaria, that cause more deaths yearly than Ebola,” the WHO has said in the paper “Ebola response: what needs to happen in 2015.”

Pointing out how preparedness, including a high level of vigilance, helps, the WHO cites the cases of Nigeria, Senegal and Mali where good surveillance and laboratory support allowed them to take swift action and prevent the virus from gaining a foothold.

Community engagement

Community engagement has been identified as the “one factor that underlies the success of all other control measures.” It describes contact tracing, early reporting of symptoms, adherence to recommended protective measures, and safe burials as critically dependent on a cooperative community.

The WHO also recommends having in place capacities for early detection of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases and adequate response mechanisms to become “an integral part of well-functioning health systems.”

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 4:59:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/global-response-to-ebola-inadequate-says-who/article6800005.ece

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