CGD in the Media

Ebola Outbreak (BBC World News)

October 29, 2014

Senior fellow Mead Over discusses the difference in response to Ebola by doctors on the ground and public health officials:

“I do think the Minister of Health in Liberia, for example, has to have a different perspective than the doctors who are working under the Minister of Health. And the same thing is true to a larger degree between Médecins Sans Frontières – which is a group of heroes, including by the way Craig Spencer  whom you mentioned earlier. These people are heroes treating people on the ground and their concern, quite properly, is with patients and with trying to do the best they can with those patients. So if I were an Ebola patient in Liberia or any of the other affected countries, I would want those Médecins Sans Frontières helping me. But if I’m the Minister of Health of Liberia, or Guinea or Sierra Leone, I think I would turn to the CDC and the public health experts to understand how to control this desperately serious epidemic.”

He also explains the potential economic impact of the outbreak:

“I was working with a team of more than a dozen World Bank economists and it was a multi-step procedure. It was a fascinating process to go through because we started with information from the ground…. [Then] we said, ‘What’s the probability of an outbreak in other countries?’ For example, Mali was one of the countries in our model. We had a probability for an impact in each of those countries and we scaled the impact they would have depending on two things. First, the number of cases they might have. And second, we allowed the impact to be diluted if the economy was larger. So for a country like the United States with an enormous GDP, enormous health care capacity, even though we had, you know, quite a measurable impact probability – which turns out to have been correct, we now have cases in Dallas and New York – that impact is absorbed by this very healthy American economy. But in Mali, that is not going to be the case. If that country’s epidemic gets out of control, they’re going to have serious economic problems, exactly like the ones we estimated for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.”