The number of new Ebola cases in Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries in the current epidemic, has come down to about 20 per day, far fewer than models predicted a few months ago. Ebola treatment units now have hundreds of empty beds, and the fight against the virus is entering a new phase. Despite the recent progress, the Ebola outbreak has been devastating for Liberia, not just in the number of dead, at least 2,964, but also in how it has dashed President Ellen Johanson Sirleaf´s long-gestating plans for development.
Sirleaf, a former Finance Minister, educated at Harvard´s John F. Kennedy School of Government, camp for the presidency on a platform of good governance and poverty reduction, becoming Africa´s first elected female leader in 2006. More important, Sirleaf has been successful in getting international support and encouraging some new investment into Liberia. Back in September, the key job was building clinics, removing the dead, and keeping as many patients as possible isolated. Now, it’s about setting up a flexible system to respond to new outbreaks, identifying patients quickly, and tracing their contacts to prevent more infections.
Meanwhile, outbreaks are still flaring up in the remote districts, making it unlikely that Liberia can put a stop to the epidemic anytime soon. While health officials say they are making headway against the Ebola epidemic in neighboring Liberia, the disease is still raging in Sierra Leone, despite the big international push of nearly a thousand British soldiers and planeloads of experts seem to arrive every day — Ugandan doctors, Chinese epidemiologists, Australian logisticians. It is important that other countries too contribute to the international effort and support the development of safe, effective and affordable vaccines and treatments.
“Britain will always step up and play its part on the big development and security threats we face. Not just because it is morally right, but also because it is the best way of protecting our people and dealing with the instability that threatens our long-term prosperity”said PM David Cameron in statement on Ebola at the G20.
In November alone, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,800 new cases in this country, about three times as many as in Liberia, which until recently had been the center of the outbreak. The world is facing the worst Ebola outbreak in history and the Ebola virus is moving faster. Now is the time for experts to test new drugs and vaccines, where Ebola has hit harder.
Although Ebola has no known cure, scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working to develop a vaccine against the virus. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and NewLink Genetics currently have two vaccines in human safety trials, and an additional five companies have said they will begin testing their products on humans in the first quarter of 2015.