The reactive approach to emerging infectious disease should be augmented with an anticipatory model that accounts for the dramatic changes occurring through globalization, greater interactions between human and zoonotic populations, and changes to the environment and climate patterns.
There are key takeaways from the Ebola outbreak, Syria's chemical weapons, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The U.S. and its international partners should view these events as learning opportunities that could help improve preparedness and response capabilities before the next crisis strikes.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak was the most severe of its kind. At the height of the crisis, 800 to 1,000 new cases were reported per week in Africa across the three most heavily affected countries. As of last week, there were only 12 confirmed cases. What must be done to prevent and mitigate future crises of this nature?
Lessons learned through the analysis of this most recent Ebola outbreak as well as other disease outbreaks can have far-reaching consequences, helping authorities to both improve the continuing, ongoing response and plan for the best possible response to future threats.
The Ebola outbreak in Africa and the cases in the United States weighed heavily on the minds of policymakers and the public. While the Ebola threat was (and is) certainly real, many Americans greatly overestimated their chances of contracting the deadly disease.
Public health experts can identify nations that are vulnerable to the occurrence and impact of future outbreaks of Ebola or other emergencies by using a screening tool that evaluates a nation's strengths across a wide range of measures such as political strength and health care capabilities.
The experiences of African countries that successfully contained Ebola early can be informative for government officials, international organizations, and aid agencies seeking to capture the underlying factors that affect countries' resilience to such outbreaks and can help them prepare for high-risk scenarios.
Response efforts to the 2014 Ebola outbreak highlighted both strengths and weaknesses. Researchers have created a tool that may help inform and guide ongoing efforts in the midst of similar public health emergencies, rather than after the fact.
When public health emergencies arise, policymakers must assess and compare interventions to determine the best way forward. Using Ebola as an example, RAND developed a simple, practical, proof-of-concept tool that may fill gaps in a decisionmaker's ability to systematically assess options in a public health emergency.
For much of 2014, the world has confronted the most deadly Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the disease in 1976. What lessons have emerged? What should the world do to better prepare for transnational outbreaks?
Crafting an effective, whole-community strategy to respond to Ebola could stop the spread of the disease now and lay groundwork for responses to future outbreaks and other emergencies. In the long run, this could make public preparedness and resilience valuable assets for the U.S.
Melinda Moore, a RAND public health physician and senior researcher, hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit to answer questions about Ebola, including whether a U.S. travel ban would help prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
Operation United Assistance, which includes the deployment of 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to respond to the Ebola crisis, is a welcome recognition of the range of missions the military is increasingly able to tackle, particularly in disaster-management assistance.
Medical and public health systems are crucial to controlling the transmission of Ebola and treating patients. But the public's role in becoming aware and engaged, both in West Africa and the United States, cannot be overstated.
No amount of research can save those who've already perished from Ebola in West Africa, but our capacity to learn from such tragedies is a silver lining that has historically enhanced global resilience to disease. With that in mind, here are six key lessons from the outbreak.