Ebola viral disease in West Africa: a threat to global health, economy and political stability

Submitted: 22 February 2016
Accepted: 15 August 2016
Published: 17 August 2016
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The West African sub-continent is currently experiencing its first, and ironically, the largest and longest Ebola viral diseases (EVD) outbreak ever documented in modern medical history. The current outbreak is significant in several ways, including longevity, magnitude of morbidity and mortality, occurrence outside the traditional niches, rapid spread and potential of becoming a global health tragedy. The authors provided explicit insights into the current and historical background, drivers of the epidemic, societal impacts, status of vaccines and drugs development and proffered recommendations to halt and prevent future occurrences. The authors reviewed mainly five databases and a hand search of key relevant literature. We reviewed 51 articles that were relevant up until the 18th of August 2014. The authors supplemented the search with reference list of relevant articles and grey literature as well as relevant Internet websites. Article searches were limited to those published either in English or French. There are strong indications that the EVD may have been triggered by increased human activities and encroachment into the forest ecosystem spurred by increasing population and povertydriven forest-dependent local economy. Containment efforts are being hampered by weak and fragile health systems, including public health surveillance and weak governance, certain socio-anthropological factors, fast travels (improved transport systems) and globalization. The societal impacts of the EBV outbreak are grave, including economic shutdown, weakening of socio-political systems, psychological distress, and unprecedented consumption of scarce health resources. The research and development (R&D) pipeline for product against EBV seems grossly insufficient. The outbreak of Ebola and the seeming difficulty to contain the epidemic is simply a reflection of the weak health system, poor surveillance and emergency preparedness/ response, poverty and disconnect between the government and the people in many West African countries. Although interventions by the United Nations and other international development agencies could ultimately halt the epidemic, local communities must be engaged to build trust and create demand for the public health interventions being implemented in the Ebola-ravaged populations. In the intermediate and long term, post-Ebola rehabilitation should focus on strengthening of health systems, improving awareness about zoonosis and health behaviors, alleviating poverty and mitigating the impact of triggering factors. Finally, national governments and international development partners should mobilize huge resources and investments to spur or facilitate R&D of disease control tools for emerging and pernicious infectious diseases (not limited to EVD).

Omoleke, S. A., Mohammed, I., & Saidu, Y. (2016). Ebola viral disease in West Africa: a threat to global health, economy and political stability. Journal of Public Health in Africa, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/jphia.2016.534


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