The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a public health emergency due to the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has accounted for over 13,000 reported cases and 4,800 deaths. Some imported and locally acquired cases in health care workers have also been reported in the United States. As a result, concerns about the further escalation of this epidemic and how to best prepare for and contain this deadly disease exist in both the U.S. and abroad.
What is the current state of the Ebola epidemic? What are some best practices in countries that have successfully contained the epidemic? How could these lessons be replicated and applied elsewhere? Would we be prepared to rapidly detect and contain the disease if it developed into a large outbreak in the U.S.? Do local hospitals have the capacity and resources necessary if the virus spreads domestically? What is the status of Ebola vaccine development and distribution? What are barriers to containment? Could travel restrictions be useful in curbing the spread of the disease? What are the legal issues surrounding quarantine and other such laws? What other challenges do policymakers face?
Josh Michaud, associate director, Global Health Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation, described the global response, including containment strategy, proper surveillance, and best practices.
Peter Hotez, founding dean and professor, National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and president and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, sopke about the effort to develop clinical countermeasures.
Jeffrey Gold, chancellor, University of Nebraska Medical Center, assessed domestic health system preparedness.
Jennifer Kates of Kaiser and Ed Howard of the Alliance co-moderated.
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Contact: Beeta Rasouli firstname.lastname@example.org (202)789-2300
If you were unable to attend the briefing, here are some key takeaways:
Josh Michaud broke down the Ebola response approach in West Africa as stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability, and preventing outbreaks in neighboring countries. He also stated that $1.23 billion in global financing has been provided for response efforts in West Africa, with the U.S. providing the largest share of funds.
Peter Hotez described the Ebola virus as part of a group of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). He said that there has been little incentive to develop a vaccine for Ebola and emphasized the importance of not relying exclusively on big pharma, but rather utilizing other institutions and organizations to create vaccines and treatments for NTDs. He also recommended that one to two percent of the global health budget be allocated to NTDs in impoverished nations.
Jeffrey Gold spoke about the four existing biocontainment units in the U.S. with a total capacity of 16 beds, ten of which are in Nebraska. He stated that most hospitals lack expertise in highly infectious disease treatment and emphasized the urgent need for national standardized training in highly infectious disease and facility assessment. As one of the U.S. centers for excellence for Ebola, he described some of the lessons learned including the importance of partnerships with worldwide and U.S. resources, careful attention to tiny detail of care and logistics, and the unresolved issue of reimbursement for Ebola care.
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