“This morning I am declaring that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus disease a public health emergency of international concern,” Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, announced in her news conference from Geneva today. Along with the need for more supplies and equipment, enhanced security to protect volunteers from distrustful villagers is also a top priority in Ebola containment efforts.
This decision came after a unanimous committee vote that “the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in Africa meets the criteria under the international health regulations,” the Los Angeles Times reported. It was emphasized that labelling the situation as a public health emergency does not mean that uninfected countries are in danger of possible Ebola outbreaks of their own. Rather, it should be treated as both an alert to the world to be on the lookout for possible Ebola cases and a call for global aid. “The countries that are infected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and this complexity on their own,” said Chan. “I urge the international community to supply this support.”
Ken Isaacs, a vice president with the Samaritan’s Purse, the charity where American Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly worked, explained that international support is desperately needed to help ensure the security of foreign volunteers working in Africa. Mistrust and anger are wide amongst the African community and many times their feelings of despair are taken out on medical workers. In addition to facing widespread hostility, medical workers are reported to be experiencing serious shortages in necessary protective gear, the Miami Herald reported. “A broader coordinated intervention of the international community is the only thing that will slow the size and the speed of the disease,” Isaac explained.
Unfortunately there is no licensed drug to treat the virus or vaccine to protect individuals from being infected. Although there are many hopeful drug candidates, President Obama announced on Wednesday that the majority of support should be focused on containing the outbreak rather than drug developments. "We're focusing on the public health approach right now, because we know how to do that, but I will continue to seek information about what we're learning with respect to these drugs going forward," Obama said during the press conference, New York Magazine reported. Aid has been requested in the form of aircrafts equipped to transport Ebola patients, more laboratories to speed the processing of blood tests, and of course more protection of health workers against potentially violent attacks.
The first recorded Ebola outbreak occurred in 1976. In the nearly 40 years since, not counting the current outbreak, Ebola has collectively claimed 1,503 lives. During the few months that the current Ebola outbreak has been ravaging West Africa 932 lives have already been lost. White House National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell assured that at the moment preventing Ebola from claiming more lives is a top international concern. “Both the World Health Organization and the CDC have announced that they will be surging personnel to these countries to assist in this effort,” said Ventrell after a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Miami Herald reported.