One year ago, the West African Ebola outbreak was generating so many new cases, had spread to so many countries that the world was terrified. Many feared that the Ebola virus was the pathogen that would overwhelm humanity. Now, one year later that terror has been replaced by confidence that strong leadership, adaptation of the response to cultures and environments and innovation have turned the tide. Liberia has interrupted transmission and Sierra Leone is close to achieving that milestone. Guinea is still recording cases but in low numbers.
Here in the words of those who have been fighting Ebola are the impressions of what it was like a year ago and what the Ebola outbreak looks like now:
One year ago, the situation with Ebola was completely different. There were hundreds of cases of Ebola every single week. The most extraordinary thing that has happened is that by the 1st of December last year the curve was starting to bend because 70% of cases were being isolated, 70% of people who died from Ebola were being safely buried.
Over the months, I watched how the world responded. Basically the world turned from disbelief to concern, to action, to total involvement. The Ebola outbreak became the business of so many people. Within months, we saw the numbers of cases starting to decline, mostly because people themselves took over their destiny and owned the response.
Then, Ebola was everywhere. It was in the news, it covered the billboards, the ambulances, almost every minute howling sirens, the smell of chlorine, the PPEs. Now that the outbreak is almost over, it is a great relief to see life going back to normal. Then I wouldn't dare shake the hand of a friend but now, I will give them a hug.
In September last year, the number of cases was increasing exponentially. We didn’t have the resources or the capacities to catch up with the outbreak. Today, our staff are out in the field, day to day, pounding the turf, trying to find cases and find contacts. And I think that has played an important role in contributing to a more effective international response in support of the countries.
Then, it didn’t matter whether we were talking about senior experts or experts with less experience, fear was the common denominator. Now, one of the biggest things is that people know where to reach for information, for extra training, and they know what they are supposed to receive.
Source: World Health Organization (WHO)