What’s behind a ‘disastrously inadequate response’ to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak

BY Jenny Marder  September 1, 2014 at 12:56 PM EST
A Liberian health worker disinfects a corpse after the man died in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on Aug. 15 in Monrovia, Liberia. With the right public health system in place, the countries in western Africa can contain and eradicate the the virus, write infectious disease doctors Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A Liberian health worker disinfects a corpse after the man died in a classroom now used as Ebola isolation ward on Aug. 15 in Monrovia, Liberia. With the right public health system in place, the countries in western Africa can contain and eradicate the the virus, write infectious disease doctors Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A third confirmed case of Ebola was reported in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 16, Reuters reported on Monday. This comes after a doctor in that city died last week after treating a man with the virus.

Meanwhile, a man hospitalized in Stockholm who was suspected to have Ebola did not test positive for the disease, Stockholm County Health officials said today.

More than 3,000 people have been infected by the disease in West Africa and more than 1,500 have died, according to the latest numbers released Thursday by the World Health Organization. More than 40 percent of these cases have occurred in the past three weeks.

In an opinion piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, infectious disease doctors Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer, founders of the nonprofit organization Partners in Health, wrote that the spread of the virus is due to “deadly and misinformed biases that have led to a disastrously inadequate response.” Had the same epidemic struck Washington, New York or Boston, it would have been contained and wiped out, they wrote:

“Hospitals would isolate suspected cases. Health workers would be outfitted with proper protective clothing and equipment. Doctors and nurses would administer effective supportive care, including comprehensive management of dehydration, impaired kidney and liver function, bleeding disorders and electrolyte disturbance. Labs would dispose of hazardous materials properly. And a public health command center would both direct the response and communicate clearly to the public about the outbreak.”

The United Nations, the World Health Organization and wealthy nations have the resources and tools to halt the spread of the virus, they contend. With enough resources from these countries and agencies, the column reads, “the virus could be contained and the fatality rate — which, based on the most conservative estimates, exceeds 50 percent in the present outbreak — would drop dramatically, perhaps to below 20 percent.”