Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia
It has been nine months since the first case and the virus is still making headlines. Advancements in medical technology and science seem futile, as global experts declare that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has spiraled out of control. With cases doubling almost every three weeks, the ghastly virus has threatened human existence. CDC experts have cautioned that before the outbreak subsides, another half a million could fall prey to it. While the condition in Africa seems staggering, Asia and America remain on alert. As scientists remain clueless about a vaccine or a therapy, Ebola sunders human bonds, killing 2,800 people so far.
Asian countries have been previously stung with deadly epidemics like SARS and H1N1 and are responding with decades of experience and expertise. Many countries have bolstered surveillance measures by deploying medical troops at international airports and preparing isolation wards. However, this virus poses an unprecedented challenge with its high rate of infection and fatality.
Effects of an Ebola epidemic on the already over-burdened healthcare system of Asia could be profound and the entry of the virus into Asia could endanger millions of lives.
The world, being connected as it is now, has a huge number of people travelling across countries for trade, business, and tourism. In continents like Asia, the chances of a pandemic outbreak remains substantial. Speaking to Biospectrum, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia, highlights what lies ahead for Asia and the progress made in Ebola medical interventions.
1. How did Ebola grow to become a threat?