how to stop the Ebola epidemic

During the smallpox era, in parts of Africa neighbours provided a hut, food and provisions to smallpox patients. Patients could not leave the hut until their smallpox scabs fell off (indicating that they were no longer infectious). Only smallpox survivors were allowed to enter the hut. This is the type of community innovation that could help stop Ebola today.

At the United Nations last week, delegates wore buttons that said: Isolate patients, not countries. The only way to stop the epidemic is to isolate and care for patients, not to quarantine entire communities, areas, or countries. Patients, communities, and countries that are fighting Ebola need our support.

Tom Frieden, “Isolation of affected countries will not halt the Ebola threat“, letter to the editor, Financial Times, 3 October 2014.

Dr Frieden is Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His full letter is longer and contains much of interest. The link, alas, leads to a metered paywall.

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