News Release

The Latest Ebola Outbreak: What’s Different about the U.S. and International Response?

The United States played a leading role in the international response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, providing the most financial support, mobilizing U.S. staff across the federal government, and jumpstarting international efforts to strengthen global health security. As this month’s new outbreak unfolds in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the U.S. so far is playing a more limited role.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation brief examines key differences and changes since 2014 that are shaping how the U.S. and international community are responding in the DRC. These differences include:

  • Speedier response from the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO, which is the key international actor responding to global health emergencies, reorganized its emergency response offices after the 2014 outbreak to streamline the deployment of staff, supplies and funding during major disease outbreaks.
  • Local authorities have more experience with Ebola. The new outbreak is the ninth to strike the DRC since 1976 – more than in any other nation. In contrast, the 2014 outbreak was centered in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which had not previously had any Ebola outbreaks and had limited medical resources, laboratories, clinicians and epidemiologists.
  • An Ebola vaccine is now available for emergency use. Since the 2014 outbreak, aggressive efforts led to the development of an experimental Ebola vaccine that is now being used in the DRC as part of the emergency response to help contain the outbreak.

While the current outbreak is in its early stages, the brief notes that the U.S. has been somewhat quicker to join the international response than in 2014. Multiple U.S. agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (providing epidemiological and laboratory support) and USAID (providing technical assistance such as mobile laboratories), are involved – though largely in a supporting role.

The brief also explores the U.S. budget for global health response efforts, including the Trump Administration’s May 8 request for Congress to rescind $252 million in remaining Ebola funds authorized in 2014 but not yet spent.

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.