The Search for Stability in the Wake of Ebola
"This isn’t 15,000 incidents of eating bushmeat,” Paul Farmer said. “It’s weak public health systems.”
Prior to his remark, I thought that contracting Ebola was a death sentence, but Farmer corrected my assumptions. “Don’t believe anyone who tells you that case fatality is higher than 10 percent,” he insisted. “These are people dying of untreated shock. That means it’s a supply-chain problem.”
I have admired Farmer’s leadership in public health for more than a decade, but this was the first time I had the chance to hear him speak firsthand. Just off the plane from the hot zone, Farmer presents as an affable uncle, but the issues he describes are deadly serious. “This is not the first zoonosis to jump from animals into humans and then go global,” he remarked, gesturing at past outbreaks of SARS, avian flu, mad cow disease, and swine flu. Ebola, he said, is a public health crisis, driven by the absence of strong public health infrastructure.
On December 3, 2014, Farmer spoke to a group of more than 100 stakeholders at a day-long event that sought to improve the private sector’s response to the Ebola epidemic. Representatives from General Electric, Western Union, UPS, GSK, IBM, and others were in attendance, as well as key leaders of public sector institutions, including Ron Klain, White House Ebola Response Coordinator, and others from The World Bank and U.S. Department of State. The event was convened by a group of nonprofit stakeholders that included Points of Light, CECP, PSI, CollaborateUp, and PYXERA Global.
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