Opinion Pieces Discuss Ebola Outbreak, Response In DRC

The Conversation: The Uganda vaccine trial: how African researchers are tackling Ebola
Yap Boum, professor in the faculty of Medicine at Mbarara University of Science and Technology

“…Last week researchers from Epicentre, Uganda Virus Research Institute, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene started a new [Ebola vaccine] trial in Uganda. The aim is to provide additional information and to evaluate the safety and immune response generated by a two-dose Ebola vaccine regimen manufactured by Janssen Vaccines and Prevention. … The outcome of the study will be watched with intense interest for a number of reasons. The first is that it is expected to provide evidence that will enable the vaccine to be registered, opening the door to having another tool with which to fight against Ebola in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)] and elsewhere. The second is that the Janssen vaccine could produce stronger and longer-lasting immune responses against different strains of Ebola virus as well as the Marburg virus and Tai Forest virus that affect other African countries. And the trial will provide new evidence about Ebola virus disease and its transmission, as well as perceptions and attitudes about the vaccine. … Another important outcome of this trial is the strengthening of research capacity in Africa. … [T]he initiative will allow African researchers to be on the frontline of the research on Ebola” (8/7).

Washington Times: Ebola, here we go again
Sheldon Jacobson, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and chair of the INFORMS National Science Foundation Liaison Committee

“…Learning from previous missteps, officials can opt for a more nuanced approach [to screening travelers for Ebola]. An alternative policy that combines the 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocol with a more comprehensive risk assessment called social contact tracing (SCT). SCT simply uses questions to determine if a traveler may have come into contact with a person infected with the Ebola virus and assesses the potential footprint of contacts that they may have over the 21-day period following their destination arrival. This would place the burden on passengers to provide additional data when traveling from infected areas, as well as share how and where they will travel after arriving at their final destination, filling in information about their 21-day window during which symptoms can appear and limiting opportunities to spread the disease. … Although the implementation of this secondary risk level requires additional data collection costs and time, the potential societal and public health benefits justify such expenditures and efforts. … By adding a second criterion to passenger-risk evaluation, the power of analytics and data science can be unleashed on the Ebola screening process … Now is the time for the CDC to update its Enhanced Entry Screening procedures, so informed public health policy, not a knee-jerk reaction, positions our nation to meet the impending challenges” (8/6).

The Hill: Stop the Ebola crisis in the Congo before it turns into global disaster
Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“…Some international organizations have bravely addressed [the DRC Ebola] crisis for months, while others have lagged, and there is a good deal more that the United States can do. The response should include not only public health care assistance but support for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in that part of the Congo. This could include sending a group of advisers and trainers for the armed forces of the Congo, so that the area can be better stabilized and proper health care treatment can take place. The alternative to getting this problem under control promptly could be devastating. … [W]e need to address this crisis now before it evolves and escalates into something truly horrible, like a global contagion of the first order” (8/6).

Slate: The Real Ebola “Emergency”
Georgina Ramsay, assistant professor at the University of Delaware

“…[I]n the global media, discussions about Ebola rarely emphasize the role of poverty. … Poverty may be more banal than violence, but it is just as important a factor in complicating how Ebola is treated. Poverty leads to densely populated housing and poor sanitation, which increase the spread of infectious diseases. Poverty prevents people from getting adequate nutrition, which helps fight off and lessen the potentially deadly effects of infectious illnesses. Poverty forces people into contagion zones to work, because if it comes to the decision between starving to death and potentially contracting a deadly virus, many people will choose to risk death with a full belly. When it comes to Ebola, we ignore the risks of poverty at our own peril, and especially at the peril of those within the contagion zone. We need to take seriously the concerns of Congolese people, … whose poverty directs [their] attention to the possibility of whether [they] will eat that night, rather than whether they will contract Ebola. If not, we remain complicit in a system of global relations that continues to privilege the lives of the advantaged few over the lives and concerns of ordinary people in Africa” (8/6).