Last August, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “public health emergency of international concern”. The epidemic, with over 22,000 cases across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and almost 8,800 likely victims, is the biggest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
This month, as the rate of new Ebola deaths slowly declines, we examine how the world got together to fight the crisis, making use of different skills in the fields of medical research, technology and the media. Experts hope the world will be better equipped to respond fast and effectively to future global health emergencies.
We discover how researchers in Oxford, in the United Kingdom, have helped to fast-track trials of one potential Ebola vaccine, in accordance with WHO guidelines. We also discuss how the unprecedented international drive to speed up vaccine development may help highlight the underfunded field of neglected tropical diseases.
Although action against the outbreak has so far mainly been by doctors and NGOs, now designers are chipping in with a prototype protective suit for those treating Ebola patients. Experts at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States won an award to help develop technical innovations to fight Ebola and support their deployment.
While doctors work in the field to treat patients, others are using social media to build ‘health literacy’ among the population. We talk with the man behind the successful social media platform EbolaAlert, which helps inform people, builds networks among health professionals and tests social media’s potential to assist future research into similar crises.
SciDev.Net Podcast: Vaccines and design against Ebola
Lou Del Bello