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Four Epidemics That Almost Happened But Fortunately Did Not

Four epidemics that nearly materialized but did not.

By Althea MarchPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
Four frightening outbreaks that almost occurred but did not.

What makes an epidemic response effective? Examine effective anti-epidemic systems from throughout the world.

Guinea in Africa experienced the first Ebola outbreak in 2013. The outbreak grew to be the largest Ebola epidemic ever documented because the nation lacked a clear response system. After a major system upgrade, Guinea was able to successfully contain a second outbreak in 2021. What then constitutes a successful pandemic response? George Zaidan investigated these initiatives taken from various communities.

One of the most deadly viruses we are aware of is Ebola. About half of individuals who contract it die if untreated. It can spread through virtually every bodily fluid, including blood and perspiration. Even the deceased can spread the illness, frequently doing so during their own funerals.

A two-year-old boy in southern Guinea fell ill on December 26th, 2013. He passed away two days later. Only four months later did it become clear that Ebola was to blame, in large part because local doctors working with the international community had never before discovered it outside of Central Africa. Ebola earned a start in those four months that would be disastrous.

The two-year-long outbreak turned into the biggest Ebola epidemic ever documented. Over 28,000 people caught the illness, and over 11,000 of them passed away. Guinea lacked an established emergency response system in 2013. There are few trained contact tracers, no quick diagnostics, border screenings, or approved Ebola vaccines.

Following the outbreak, Guinea totally revamped its epidemic response system with the help of the US and other international allies. And that system underwent its first substantial test in January 2021.

It all began when a nurse in southern Guinea experienced fever, vomiting, and a headache. She passed away a few days later. According to customary burial customs, her relatives prepared her body for the funeral. The nurse's spouse and other family members began to exhibit symptoms after a week. Health officials requested tests far sooner than in 2013 after developing suspicions of Ebola.

When the results came back positive, Guinea immediately turned on its epidemic alarm system. Several events followed shortly after that. Guinea's National Agency for Health Security activated the national emergency operations center as well as 38 district-level ones. Epidemiology and contact tracing teams started the laborious task of determining precisely who and when was exposed, producing a list of 23 initial contacts that swiftly swelled to over 1,100.

In the city where the outbreak first appeared, advanced quick testing facilities were established. At Guinea's borders with Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, public health personnel examined more than 2 million visitors. A widespread immunization drive was launched. Finally, more than 900 community mobilizers warned people about the outbreak and offered several funeral customs that would be acceptable to the neighborhood and lower the chance of Ebola spreading.

All of these actions allowed the 2021 outbreak to be contained within four months of its start. Only 23 people had Ebola, and only 12 of them died. That is less than 1% of the fatalities from the earlier pandemic.

Although $100 million may sound like a lot, it is nothing compared to the $53 billion worldwide economic damage of the outbreak in 2021, which cost $100 million to contain.

So, should all nations simply adopt Guinea's strategy? Not quite. A timely response to an outbreak is always crucial; hence, an early warning system is crucial. Beyond that, though, a successful response can look very different for certain diseases in various nations.

For instance, Brazil successfully contained a mosquito-borne yellow fever outbreak by primarily launching a major vaccine effort. Because Brazil is one of the world's largest suppliers of the yellow fever vaccine and its populace is used to receiving vaccines on a regular basis, routinely, that plan worked effectively for Brazil.

However, many diseases don't even require a widespread immunization program. A truck driver in Burkina Faso tested positive for cholera in August of 2021. Healthcare professionals informed the government the same day, and contact tracing got underway right away. Because a bacterium causes cholera, Burkina Faso offered antibiotics to anyone who had the disease or was at risk of contracting it.

This incredibly quick response brought an end to the pandemic just a few weeks after it started. In West Africa, cholera frequently recurs; in 2021, there were more than 100,000 cases and more than 3,700 fatalities. Burkina Faso had no fatalities that year because they were so well-prepared. Zero.

To track animal health, Chiang Mai, Thailand, health officials tested a community-owned, community-driven epidemic alarm system. This is crucial because some animal illnesses have the potential to spread to humans. Villagers used an app to notify health officials about animal epidemics.

A total of 36 animal outbreaks were found over the period of 16 months. Any outbreak response mechanism must be regarded favorably by communities in order to be effective. This entails meeting people where they are, speaking their language, and taking into account their culture, beliefs, and customs. Most significantly, we can't expect to wait years without taking any measures before springing into action when an outbreak arises.

Investing in long-lasting health infrastructure is one of the best strategies to save lives for everyone, everyday of the year, especially the weakest among us.


About the Creator

Althea March

I am a writer who searches for facts to create compelling nonfictional accounts about our everyday lives as human beings, and I am an avid writer involved in creating short fictional stories that help to stir the imagination for anyone.

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