Although Ebola has finally been contained in Liberia, there is much to learn from this latest outbreak. Health officials are taking heed of the valuable lessons gained from the successes, and more importantly, the failures, of this most recent epidemic.
This hot-button topic is being vetted among many of the top science and medical journals, the most recent, the Journal Lancet. A recent survey published in Lancet points to key issues that hampered Ebola efforts, namely a lack of infrastructure providing adequate healthcare services and the political commitment to ensure such services exist.
Basic public health systems, which include treatment facilities, laboratories, and surveillance systems are fundamental to controlling outbreaks of infectious disease. The lack of adequate healthcare systems allowed Ebola to spread faster and farther that it would have, had such systems been in place in countries such as Liberia.
The review in Lancet was composed of essays by global health practitioners from around the world. Lead author of the review, David Heymann, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Head of the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House, said, "The Ebola epidemic has clearly illustrated the importance of protecting societies from infectious disease threats that spread across national borders. Throughout history, the approach to threats like this has been to focus on rapid detection of outbreaks and rapid response - this has been the commonly understood conceptualization of health security for centuries. But the crisis has also highlighted a second, equally important but less appreciated aspect of global health security - ensuring personal access to health services and products around the world. This needs to be better recognized as part of the scope of global health security.
And there are broader concerns that must also be addressed, namely issues of poverty, antimicrobial resistance, natural disasters, and armed conflict, each of which affect people's ability to identify, treat, and overcome epidemics of infectious disease.
Although Liberia has finally been wrestled from Ebola's deadly grasp, we have much to do to guard against its inevitable return.