Newscasts: Ebola Virus outbreak – BBC World Service – CBS Radio News – October 1-17, 2014 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
With the Coronavirus turning the world upside down and plunging the world into a state of almost chaos, I was reminded that we’re no stranger to Viruses and Pandemics.
The most recent was the infamous Ebola Virus outbreak of 2014. It lasted a little less that two years, but it created an untold amount of death and near-hysteria from its epicenter in West Africa all the way to the U.S.
The 2014 outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa was the “largest, most severe and most complex Ebola epidemic” in history, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 28,000 people were infected, and 11,000 people died before the international public health emergency ended in 2016. Most of the cases occurred in three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Without an effective early-warning system, the disease spread rapidly within the region, revealing the failures of disjointed and under-resourced healthcare systems.
In Sierra Leone, where World Vision concentrated its efforts to battle the disease, Ebola was first reported in March 2014. Sierra Leone’s health system was ill-prepared to address the overwhelming number of cases. By March 2016, the WHO had documented a total of 14,124 cases, including 3,955 deaths, in Sierra Leone — more than any other country.
The Ebola virus soon spread to Guinea’s capital city of Conakry, and on March 13, 2014, the Ministry of Health in Guinea issued an alert for an unidentified illness. Shortly after, the Pasteur Institute in France confirmed the illness as EVD caused by Zaire ebolavirus. On March 23, 2014, with 49 confirmed cases and 29 deaths, the WHO officially declared an outbreak of EVD.
Weak surveillance systems and poor public health infrastructure contributed to the difficulty surrounding the containment of this outbreak and it quickly spread to Guinea’s bordering countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone. By July 2014, the outbreak spread to the capitals of all three countries. This was the first time EVD extended out from more isolated, rural areas and into densely populated urban centers, providing an unprecedented opportunity for transmission.
On August 8, 2014, WHO declared the deteriorating situation in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is designated only for events with a risk of potential international spread or that require a coordinated international response. Over the duration of the epidemic, EVD spread to seven more countries: Italy, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Later secondary infection, mainly in a healthcare setting, occurred in Italy, Mali, Nigeria, and the United States.
The scope of this outbreak, both in terms of cases and geography, can be attributed to the unprecedented circulation of EVD into crowded urban areas, increased mobilization across borders, and conflicts between key infection control practices and prevailing cultural and traditional practices in West Africa. Engaging local leaders in prevention programs and messaging, along with careful policy implementation at the national and global level, helped to eventually contain the spread of the virus and put an end to this outbreak.
As a reminder, and perhaps to draw comparisons, here is a rundown of several newscasts from The BBC and CBS Radio from October 1-17, 2014, when the virus was first discovered in the U.S.
Then as now, the fear is palpable and the death all too prevalent.