Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 07/13/2014 - 20:48

How to prevent the next Ebola outbreak

By Columnist *Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP Laura H. Kahn

“The Ebola virus has emerged in three West African countries where it had not previously been reported: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In early July, health ministers from 11 countries and representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and relevant partner organizations met in an emergency two-day meeting in Accra, Ghana, to strategize on containing the worsening crisis. So far, the outbreak is the largest and deadliest since the disease was first recognized in 1976 in northern Zaire. As of July 8, there had been 888 cases and 539 deaths, with a mortality rate over 60 percent. Previous outbreaks, in Central African countries, typically had mortality rates closer to 90 percent. …

“…This is why a One Health approach—an approach that recognizes the connection between human health and animal and environmental health—is so important in Africa. Healthy livestock promote healthy humans. Unfortunately, developing countries have difficulty providing food for their human populations, let alone their livestock. Livestock production accounts for relatively little agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa. Public health and agriculture experts must work together to improve agriculture and figure out how to meet Africans’ demands for animal proteins in an environmentally sustainable way.”

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*International One Health physician leader, Dr. Kahn is a Research Scholar, Program on Science and Global Security’ Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University and Co-Founder, One Health Initiative Autonomous Pro Bono team and website.