Response to Zika outbreak driven by Ebola failures

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the global health community are working more aggressively to contain the Zika virus in the Americas to avoid repeating mistakes that occurred during the handling of the continuing Ebola epidemic in West Africa, said Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Lecturer Suerie Moon in a March 2, 2016 article in Nature.

While Zika is not usually fatal, it can cause suffering and social and economic disruption. “It’s encouraging to see leadership and mobilization from WHO, CDC [the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other public-health institutions,” Moon said. “It shows that some of the lessons from Ebola have been digested.”

A critical mistake with the Ebola response was that governments and international public health agencies did not respond fast enough to the initial outbreak in West Africa. This enabled the disease there to expand out of control, claiming 11,000 in two years and continuing to be unresolved, according to the article.

More needs to be done to encourage sharing of information among the agencies and organizations working on the Zika epidemic, Moon said. Although WHO has urged researchers in government, academia, and industry to share data on the outbreak, companies working to develop Zika vaccines have not agreed to participate.

Read the Nature article: Spectre of Ebola haunts Zika response

Learn more

The Zika Crisis: Latest Findings (Harvard Chan School Forum)

Zika in the news (Harvard Chan School news)

In Zika response, WHO should learn from Ebola mistakes (Harvard Chan School news)