THE BLOG

Ebola Outbreak Points to Tragic Flaws in World's Disease Resilience

16/01/2015 13:21 GMT | Updated 18/03/2015 09:59 GMT

This week's news that another suspected case of Ebola has been identified at Northampton General Hospital should remind us all this fight is a long way from being won.

It follows 39-year-old British nurse Pauline Cafferkey, a confirmed case of Ebola who continues to be treated in London's Royal Free Hospital, following the announcement that she was in a critical condition on January 4th.

There continue to be similar scares all over Europe. While Ebola has tragically claimed more than 7,000 lives in West Africa since the outbreak at the beginning of 2014, it is by no means an African problem.

Ebola poses a genuine threat to all of us - and it is about time we realised this.

Professor Peter Piot, who is director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a professor of global health, has warned that exposure to future threats from viruses like this will remain unless action is taken. He is right.

"It's time the UK and Europe had a well-trained corps of people who are globally experienced and deployable, specialists in outbreak control but underpinned by strong research and science," he has said.

"We don't have that and that makes us vulnerable."

The Belgian professor, who discovered the Ebola virus back in 1976 while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, has said he didn't imagine it would "get out of control".

Not many people did. But what has not been properly discussed is the fact this is not just a battle against Ebola. The outbreak has in fact highlighted how the world, including Europe and the West, is worryingly unprepared for outbreaks such as this.

On Thursday, two people died of swine flu in Rajastan. The number of people infected with measles following an outbreak in California last month has this week risen to 26.

We need to do more as a global healthcare community to minimize deaths at the hands of these diseases. If we work with governments and other agencies we can save lives.

It is the World Health Organisation that should be leading on this, bringing together scientific and technical partners who can offer solutions to these challenges.

Mobile health, as one example, has the capacity to manage, survey and organise disease response quickly, effectively and affordably. But it is tragically underused.

If the world is to increase its disease resilience it must invest and explore all tools to make sure we are one step ahead. The Ebola outbreak has shown we are still playing catch up.