Ebola: U.S. should learn from West Africa’s response

In the weeks since the first case of Ebola was diagnosed in the United States, officials have repeatedly tried to reassure Americans that this is “not West Africa.” This is a wrong-headed attitude, according to an editorial by Michelle Holmes, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, published October 21, 2014, in The Boston Globe.

Holmes cites mistakes in the diagnosis and treatment of patient Thomas Eric Duncan, which resulted in his death and the infection of two nurses who were caring for him, and also criticizes officials’ overemphasis on public relations in responding to the disease.

“This combination of arrogance and rudderlessness may have blinded us from quickly adopting the current best practices on Ebola — from West Africa,” she wrote. Senegal and Nigeria, nations with far fewer resources than the United States, have successfully eliminated Ebola from their countries.

Both nations focused on rigorous contact tracing, Holmes wrote, not travel bans and stigmatizing health care. “There is no substitute for the US and other wealthy nations to help stop the epidemic at its source, instead of isolating entire countries and inhibiting the flow of foreign aid workers.”

Read editorial: US should look to West Africa for Ebola practices