This is an overview of the YPIA discussion on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Because many of our members are members of other organizations, opinions are unattributed and anonymous. Any names mentioned have only been stated with the express permission of the individual.
An opening overview of the issue was provided by Ann Duong. She provided a summary of the situation so far including the spread of the out break and the modes of transmission of the virus.
The outbreak started in March of 2014 and has grown to be the largest outbreak of Ebola in history. Since the outbreak begun there have been more than 8,000 deaths with numbers expected to at least surpass 10,000.
The main affected countries are Liberia, Guinea and, Sierra Leone. Senegal and Nigeria have contained the outbreak and there have been limited cases outside Africa.
The disease is passed via body fluids. It cannot be passed during the incubation period; people can only pass the disease to others if they have symptoms. The incubation period is between 2-21 days. Quarantine is 21 days since nobody has had a incubation period longer than 21 days.
One of the major problems is that initial symptoms are very similar to the flu and malaria, resulting in frequent misdiagnosis.
Animals such as bats are the main vectors in transmission.
Later an overview of the United States Government and Department of Defense’s (DOD) contributions were provided by another member. The DOD has already provided 3 mobile testing labs to speed the testing and is currently in the process of building 17 treatment centers and deploying 4,000 people.
Capacity to deal with the epidemic
One of the major topics of the discussion revolved on the lack of capacity to deal with the problem. It was stated that the affected countries do not have the treatment facilities, beds, doctors, and nurses to deal with the issue.
Some of the discussion participants expressed skepticism that the DOD aid would be sufficient to reign in the problem.
In a broader context, the general lack of capacity in both medical care and communication technology was discussed. The ideas were suggested that if there was more medical capacity in West Africa, the situation might never have escalated to were it is now. Further, it was suggested that if West Africa had better broadband access it would greatly increase communication capacity, which would help in informing the population about Ebola and in coordinating relief efforts.
Distrust of Doctors
The issue of distrust of doctors and medical personnel was also discussed. It was introduced by discussing the killing killing of eight aid workers in Guinea by the local population. The discussion moved on to a discussion of rumors and conspiracies associated with the outbreak.
Some felt that general distrust of governments and local ethic issues within the countries were helping to fuel the paranoia about Ebola aid workers.
Finally the economic impact was discussed. People expressed views on how the Ebola epidemic was affecting trade, tourism, and agriculture. Not only are fewer people traveling to affected countries but in some cases airlines are cutting off service to those countries decreasing trade and tourism. Because of curfews and fears of infection, people are staying home instead of working.
Many felt that given that the affected countries have weak economies, the Ebola epidemic will have severe long term effects on the economy.
There was some debate on if there would be a long term demographic impact. Some felt that the gender and possible age disparities might have a long term effect of demographics. It was also stated that it the low end estimates of how many will die are correct, then there will not be enough casualties to have an effect on demographics.
The problem of Ebola orphans and their impact was also briefly discussed.
After the discussion some of the participants went for drinks to continue the discussion.
The Discussion Isn’t Over! If you want to continue to express your opinions, or if you couldn’t come, please share your views in the comment section.