The apocalyptic predictions for Ebola infections are looking overblown. Back during the summer, the CDC floated the idea Ebola infections could surge past a million in West Africa. Luckily, those alarming prediction never became facts on the ground.
With Ebola infections dropping, several US Ebola treatment centers have not seen a single patient. The Washington Post did a piece on the empty centers.
“It now appears that the alarming epidemiological predictions that in large part prompted the U.S. aid effort here were far too bleak. Although future flare-ups of the disease are possible, the near-empty Ebola centers tell the story of an aggressive American military and civilian response that occurred too late to help the bulk of the more than 8,300 Liberians who became infected.”
Was the world slow in reacting? Absolutely, and public health officials will learn from the mistake. However, aggressive actions in-country and screening at transit centers helped prevent the spread of the disease globally.
As the American military was constructing the Tubmanburg Ebola center in Liberia, the national caseload began to abruptly reverse course. When the center opened in November, caseloads had dropped from a peak of 300 per week to less than a 100. By December, that number had dropped to fewer than 30.
Organizations have started to reassess whether to keep building centers, the United States decided to just cut two of the planned seventeen. That decision paid off in stopping an isolated outbreak in Grand Cape Mount – where a center had just been completed.
While Ebola infections are trending lower, doctors still caution about the possibilities of flare ups. The centers may sit empty, but West African nations now have the needed infrastructure to contain outbreaks.
The worry among the frontline health workers is that organizations are just building to build at this point. Several recount meetings where construction crews just say it’s written down, so we have to build it.
With a waning outbreak, shift the resources into a broader community health plan. Ebola is no longer the headline grabbing threat. Malaria kills more than Ebola. Let the money increase public health infrastructure in all areas, instead of building isolation units that are destined to be closed and fall into disrepair.