Lessons learnt from a recent Ebola virus outbreak: A scoping study

  • Grover M
  • Bhatnagar N
  • Kotwal A
  • et al.
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Background: Ebola outbreak of West Africa (2014) is the longest reported outbreak which recorded 6553 cases and 3083 deaths till 30 th September 2014. It brought out the prevalent problems of poor preparedness and inadequate public health response in the affected countries. It is important to understand what factors were responsible for this unprecedented outbreak and not repeat the same mistakes in future disease control measures in West Africa and elsewhere. Methods & Materials: Scoping study to summarize range of evidence available on current Ebola outbreak was done. All articles in English language related to epidemiology of Ebola in humans, published between 1 st March and 30 th September 2014 were considered for review. Search engines like PubMed and Google Scholar were used to search key word "Ebola", "Ebola Virus", "Ebola Viral Disease" and "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever". Snowballing with cross references was done to find related literature on Ebola. Related websites, blogs and published news articles were reviewed. After review of 142 articles from Pubmed and Google Scholar, 58 comprehensive articles were selected and rest were excluded on the basis of theoretical saturation of the published material. Results: This is the first ever Ebola outbreak affecting large urban communities. Factors which worsened the outbreak were: weak health systems, unfavorable cultural practices, poverty, illiteracy , mistrust for government, extensive cross border movement, slow and inadequate response from international agencies and lack of tested prevention strategies. High case fatality fueled a misunderstanding that being taken away by medical teams to treatment centers means certain death. As a result, simple measures of universal precaution, isolation and tracking of contacts, supportive treatment and appropriate burial practices were difficult to implement. Conclusion: This outbreak illustrates serious weaknesses in the international community's ability to respond to outbreaks. Cost of setting up an infrastructure for early effective response is insignificant compared to huge social and economic cost of the outbreak. Also essential are a strong health system and effective community participation. Even when the understanding of disease epidemiology is not crystal clear, simple supportive interventions delivered timely and efficiently can compensate for the lack of effective vaccines or antimicrobials.




Grover, M., Bhatnagar, N., Kotwal, A., & Chauhan, H. (2016). Lessons learnt from a recent Ebola virus outbreak: A scoping study. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 45, 174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2016.02.410

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