Slow Ebola Response Blamed On False Assumptions About Its Course

Steven Ross Johnson | Modern Healthcare | September 17, 2014

Health experts and humanitarian organizations waging war against the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa hope plans announced Tuesday by the Obama Administration to send additional aid to affected regions will encourage more philanthropic support and health worker recruitment. Both money and volunteers have come in at a slower pace in this crisis than in past disasters.

“Today, the response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind and too many lives are being lost,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, international president for Doctors Without Borders in a written statement Tuesday. “We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.”  Medical aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders and others have been at the forefront of relief efforts since the beginning of the epidemic last December, and have been warning countries of the need for a greater response since at least March.

Despite their call to action, both governments and those in private sector were slow to act in the early months of the outbreak, a mistake that has cost lives and increased the estimated cost to stop the disease to nearly $1 billion, according to a recent assessment conducted by the United Nations.  Part of the slow response comes from past experience with the disease. Historically, Ebola has produced a few hundred cases before eventually running its course. Health experts believe many may have assumed the current outbreak would follow the same pattern...