Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Sierra Leone 'Defeated' by Ebola

By Allen ChenPublished October 21, 2014

There seems to be no end in sight for the Ebola epidemic. As more and more people get infected, countries are beginning to have to implement new methods in order to combat the disease.

By Allen Chen, 10/21/2014

Arguably the most significant shift in healthcare policy within the last year happened less than a week ago. Admitting a major "defeat," the international community and Sierra Leone have shifted their policy efforts towards treating Ebola from one of having patients come to treatment centers to that of having families take care of their sick at home, where they are almost certain to pass away.

Ebola is a viral disease that currently has no FDA-approved vaccine or medication. At overpopulated treatment centers, patients are given intravenous fluids and treatment for other infections to improve their chances of survival against Ebola. At home, as quoted by Dr. Peter H. Kilmarx, the leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's team in Sierra Leone, treatment is to "push some Tylenol to them, and back away."

International health organization and non-governmental agencies like the Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and Doctors Without Borders have provided support to the hardest hit countries with medical supplies and manpower; however, there have been rising concerns that West African country officials have been preventing the supplies from reaching their population due to arguments over shipping regulations and fees. Recently, Doctors Without Borders has announced that they have reached the maximum level of response they can handle.

One of the reasons for the implementation for at home care is the fact that Ebola is spread through touching the blood or bodily fluids of a person already infected with Ebola. Ebola is potentially transmitted to hundreds whenever an infected victim needs to travel extreme distances to overcrowded health centers. West African governments have begun asking their citizens to quarantine themselves in order to combat the spread of the virus; however, as a result, family members are often infected while caring for their family members. Another reason is the notion that there is simply no care that can be given to them.

The world is closely watching Ebola terrorize West Africa and is sending millions of dollars worth of supplies in order to help Sierra Leone and other countries combat Ebola; however, it is not enough. As the Ebola epidemic continues to grow, policies will be enacted both domestically and abroad against this monster. Almost a thousand beds are needed in Sierra Leone alone. Over four thousand people have died because of Ebola in Western Africa. To date, one has died in the United States. Hopefully, as more and more first world countries have to deal with the immediate effect of Ebola, the threat will be taken much more seriously.