According to the most recent WHO update Ebola has caused over 8300 deaths since the outbreak began in late 2013. New disease transmissions are occurring, but the rate of transmission has been dramatically reduced by rigorous contact tracing, early intervention, and behavioral changes.
There continues to be the risk of transmission spikes and endemic transmission cycles. There is much still to do. But the worst projections have been avoided and sufficient capacity now exists to contain and further reduce the risk.
For me the most remarkable aspect of this still emerging story has been the role of informal networks, neighbors, and motivated volunteers in organizing rigorous contact tracing and behavioral interventions. In the January 19 New Yorker there is a fine piece of long-journalism by Luke Mogelson that focuses in on this “whole community” angle of the epidemic.
A few excerpts, but please read the whole story:
Neighborhoods have mobilized, health-care workers have volunteered, and rural villagers have formed local Ebola task forces. Individuals who survive Ebola are usually immune to infection, and in many places they have become integral to stemming the epidemic. “Communities are doing things on their own, with or without our support,” Joel Montgomery, the C.D.C. team leader in Liberia at the time, told me when I met him in Monrovia…
To build a network of active case-finders who could cover all of West Point, Gbessay recruited three volunteers from each of the slum’s thirty-five blocks. Most of them were young and had a degree of social clout—“credible people,” Gbessay called them. The quarantine had done little to alleviate popular skepticism of the government’s Ebola-containment policies, however, and, for a while, hostility persisted. “At first, the cases were skyrocketing,” Gbessay said. “We used to see seventy, eighty cases a day. But by the middle of September everyone started to think, Look, I better be careful. Today, you talk to your friend—tomorrow, you hear the guy is gone. So they started to pay attention.”
Please read, When the Fever Breaks. As you read it I wonder if you will, as I did, perceive key principles that are potentially relevant to a wide range of homeland security challenges.