Thursday, December 25, 2014

Up-Coming: The Myth of Public Health Security in an age of Pandemic Disease

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Ebola Isolation Center Freetown 2014, Image CDC
The concept of public health security emerged sometime after the US anthrax attacks and came to be associated with deliberate disease as well as developing coordinated infrastructures to protect against outbreaks of naturally occurring, highly pathogenic diseases such as Ebola. If anything the West African Ebola outbreak demonstrates it is surely failures in public health security and international preparedness to counter emerging diseases which have the potential to go global. At the heart of preparedness however, is investment in public health infrastructures, not only in NATO, EU  and developed nations, but more importantly in nations which cannot support a public health capability. The three nations worst hit by Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were in the process of reconstituting their respective public health sectors after years of civil strife, when Ebola began ravaging the fragile structure. The World Health Organization which operates on a budget the size of a general hospital was left with few resources to respond. One can imagine the enormity of the task. Building a sufficient public health infrastructure absent civil war and the worst outbreak of Ebola in history would be a nearly insurmountable challenge doing this while Ebola ravaged these nations and wiped out entire villages is an effort no one would envy having to scavenge together.
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Ebola, like other highly infectious diseases is transmissible and its emergence in all three capitals where transportation could expedite it going global, was a wake up call for most public health officials. As nations consider resources designated to protect their own nationals, it is important to recognized the number one lesson of this outbreak: investment in weak or non-existing public health infrastructures is an investment for all.  

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