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Ebola outbreak in West Africa: considerations for strengthening Australia’s international health emergency response

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It is time for a common vision and strategy for deploying Australian expertise to international public health emergencies

An effective response to health emergencies such as the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa relies on global capacity to rapidly surge the supply of skilled workers, particularly when they are limited in affected countries and increasingly depleted during the emergency. Before the Ebola outbreak, health professionals in West Africa were already scarce; for example, in Liberia the doctor-to-population ratio was 1:70 000, compared with 1:300 in Australia.1,2 In addition to clinicians, an effective response to a large outbreak of Ebola virus disease in resource-limited settings requires international technical support across a range of public health and other disciplines, including infection prevention and control, epidemiology, laboratory diagnostics, communication, mental health, anthropology, social mobilisation, logistics, security and coordination.

Early in the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, many international non-government organisations (NGOs) and several governments established treatment centres and sent public health professionals to provide clinical care and augment control efforts. Timely public health interventions in Ebola-affected rural communities achieved crucial reductions (about 94%)…