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Ebola outbreak could easily have been averted, says expert

There has been criticism of the World Health Organisation over the slow response to the Ebola outbreak.

Health workers spray the body of an amputee suspected of dying from Ebola in Liberia
Health workers spray the body of an amputee suspected of dying from Ebola in Liberia
Image: Abbas Dulleh/AP/Press Association Images

RECOMMENDATIONS MADE THREE years ago could have prevented the current Ebola outbreak according to a leading health expert.

The new comment draws attention to plans that had been recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2011 that outlined action that could have been taken in response to global health emergencies.

At the time, the WHO Review Committee proposed a contingency fund of around €75 million, which would have been used for rapid response for instances such as the current outbreak.

The fund was not created at the time due to lack of commitment from high-income countries. 

This criticism comes from Professor Lawrence Gostin, the faculty director at O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law in Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

Speaking in The Lancet about the failure of the WHO Gostin said:

The answer is not untested drugs, mass quarantines, or even humanitarian relief. If the real reasons the outbreak turned into a tragedy of these proportions are human resource shortages and fragile health systems, the solution is to fix these inherent structural deficiencies.

The WHO are currently mounting a response to the Ebola outbreak that is set to cost around €370 million although this money is still being raised.

Despite the current Ebola outbreak starting in April the WHO only declared the issue a Public Health Emergency of International Concern late last month.

There have been more than 20 outbreaks of Ebola since 1976. This most recent one, however, is the first to see the infection spread to major urban areas.

So far over more than 130 health professionals have died from Ebola.

One stark example given in Gostin’s criticism is that 15 nurses have died at a hospital in Sierra Leone. Prior to the outbreak the country only had around 1,000 nurses overall.

It is projected that the current outbreak could infect up to 20,000 with a mortality rate of 20%.

Over 1,900 people have died in the outbreak and the WHO have warned that the virus is still gathering pace.

Read: The death toll from Ebola has jumped to more than 1,900

Also: British Ebola victim discharged from hospital following experimental treatment

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