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Modern science has delivered the world powerful tools to defeat Ebola. It is not enough (STAT)

August 14, 2019

From the article:

By some measures, the world has at last reached a tipping point in the decades-long fight against Ebola, one of the most treacherous infectious diseases known to mankind. An experimental vaccine is believed to be effective, and this week came word that that one and perhaps even two drugs appear to significantly reduce the fatality rate among treated patients.

But to declare victory against the virus would be to overlook fundamental truths about outbreaks. In some circumstances at least — and the current long-running outbreak is one — Ebola will not be vanquished by vaccines and drugs alone.

Jeremy Konyndyk, who in late April led a three-person mission to DRC at the behest of the WHO to assess the outbreak response, explained that Ebola is fundamentally a behavioral disease. Its transmission is fueled by instincts that are hardwired into people, such as caring for loved ones who are sick. Stopping Ebola requires people to change those behaviors, to ignore those impulses.

“This is one of the really pernicious things about Ebola, is it is a disease that preys on very basic human instincts and human emotions,” said Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who also worked on the response to the 2014-2016 West African Ebola crisis while at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Stopping the spread is not just a matter of curing the people who already have it. It’s a matter of preventing those who have it from spreading it to others through those risky behaviors.”

That means unless behaviors change, drugs and vaccines can only do so much, he said. “What’s clear is we should not be overconfident about the impact that medical countermeasures can have on their own,” Konyndyk said.

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