If we’re still alive by then, and if we’ve learned from our mistakes of unpreparedness this COVID-19 pandemic, maybe, we can still apply these recommendations from the lessons of Ebola epidemic. “The Next Epidemic”, was published by the New England Journal of Medicine dated March 18, 2015. And yes! It was just 5 years ago folks.
It’s as if he mapped out the future. Bill, “Because there was so little preparation, the world lost a lot of time trying to answer fairly basic questions about how to deal with Ebola. In the next epidemic, such delays could result in a global disaster.”
And it already has.. This paper written last 2015, was hoped to spark a conversation and action to prepare for an epidemic. Too late it may seem, yet some of these recommendations can be seen into effect among countries affected by COVID-19 today. Recommendations are as follows:
1. Primary Health-Care Systems and Surveillance
Strengthen public health systems, facilities which include laboratories, critical care and primary care.
Disease-surveillance systems and laboratory testings data are to detect early signs of an outbreak. These computer systems should work hand in hand with the national public health laboratories to enable strong monitoring and response in which its data is to be made public right away. Why? “The rationale for not waiting for each country to release the information is clear: An accessible database would be a critical global public good.” , said Gates.
2. Human Resources
Trained medical personnel on the ground ready to respond to an epidemic any time, these would include;
a. Incident managers for individual Emergency Operations Center(EOC) coordinating efforts on a country level,
b. expert epidemiology, surveillance, outbreak response, social anthropology
c. community leaders and workers who can lead and disseminate information and implement programs.
As per Gates, “The final arrangement should include a reserve corps of experts with the broad range of skills needed in an epidemic.”
3. Transportation and Equipment
The military resources is to be put in to help build health centers, managing logistics and to move people in and out of danger zones. They are to command and organise different groups working as with the U.S. and U.K. military during the Ebola epidemic.
Goods like; medical tents, protective suits, masks, bleach, portable power supply and air conditioning, and medical supplies, and more are to be ready at a large scale. Militaries and Humanitarian agencies stockpile should help with these items.
4. Medical and Public Health Tools
Better medical technology: quick and accurate diagnostic tests(within 20 minutes), therapeutics; antivirals, antibodies, RNA, transfusion drugs that would reduce duration and degree of infections, and vaccines should be give proper funding.
5. Quarantine and Communication
He added, “..quarantine will be one of the few tactics in the early stage of the disease that can reduce the spread of contagion.” In China, during the SARS epidemic, they were effectively able to roll out ban on travel and public gatherings in the danger zones. Ideally, this should be the case in other countries as well.
A well-planned quarantine should be carefully coordinated with different communication groups such as: the government, U.N. agencies, news media, bloggers etc. to avoid panic and confusion.
In conclusion, Gates called for a global action among countries and closed with these words, “In my view, an epidemic is one of the few catastrophes that could set the world back in a huge way in the next few decades. Severe epidemics have struck many times in the past, and they are only more likely as the world becomes more closely connected. By building a global warning and response system, we can prepare for the next epidemic and avoid millions of deaths.”
IF only… We could only wish these recommendations had been taken seriously. For now, we could only look forward and learn from this pandemic and hopefully we’ll carry these lessons and be more prepared for the next.
A detailed source of this article is published at NEJM.org.