Worth looking at the way we responded to SARS vs. what is happening with Ebola
The first cases of SARS in humans probably occurred in November 2002 but the WHO was not notified until February 2003. Within a year, we had:
- Identified a previously unknown pathogen
- Obtained a complete genome sequence
- Developed rapid PCR based diagnostic tests
- Deployed these tests in the field
- Tracked all known cases across three continents and several major cities
By May of 2004, a little over a year after the WHO was first notified, the epidemic was completely controlled and there have been no new cases since. Note that SARS is a respiratory pathogen transmitted by aerosol. It is far more contagious than Ebola and the epidemic rapidly spread to major urban centers. From a public health perspective, SARS was an extraordinarily challenging threat and yet under 1,000 people worldwide died of SARS.
The first case of the 2014 Ebola epidemic probably occurred in November 2013 and the WHO was notified in March of 2014.
- Known pathogen
- Already have genome sequence and extensive laboratory experience with this virus
- Both PCR and ELISA tests are available now http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ebola-virus/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20031241
- Vaccines and antiviral drugs tested in nonhuman primates
- Clinics being looted and running out of basic supplies like disposable gloves
- Epidemic continues to spread with an increasing number of new cases being reported each week
The point is that if we devoted anything close to the resources that were deployed in containing SARS, we could shutdown the Ebola epidemic in a matter of weeks.