The WHO says Ebola is spreading faster than efforts to control it. That’s not good. We need it to be the other way around.
But it’s difficult. Poverty makes it more difficult. Poverty means lack of infrastructure, and that makes it more difficult.
Analysis: David Shukman, BBC science editor
Friday’s summit should provide the kind of international co-operation needed to fight Ebola but the battle against the virus will be won or lost at the local level. An over-attentive family member, a careless moment while burying a victim, a slip-up by medical staff coping with stress and heat – a single small mistake in basic hygiene can allow the virus to slip from one human host to another.
The basic techniques for stopping Ebola are well known. The problem is applying them. Since the virus was first identified in 1976, there have been dozens of outbreaks and all of them have been contained. Experts point to these successes as evidence that this latest threat can be overcome too.
But working against them are suspicions among local people and the unavoidable fact that this is an extremely poor part of the world, much of it still reeling from conflict. Deploying the right equipment in properly trained hands is always going to be a struggle, one that is now extremely urgent.
On the other hand – the death rate from malaria dwarfs that of Ebola at present.
According to the latest estimates, released in December 2013, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 (with an uncertainty range of 135 million to 287 million) and an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000). Malaria mortality rates have fallen by 42% globally since 2000, and by 49% in the WHO African Region.
Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria. Malaria mortality rates among children in Africa have been reduced by an estimated 54% since 2000.
That’s an emergency too, to say the least, but it’s a familiar, as it were domesticated emergency, and we don’t worry that it’s going to come and get us, so…we don’t think of it as an emergency.