The buzz surrounding Ebola started to die down after an update declaring a ten-month low of a reported nine cases, and as transcontinental infection was scarce. Although newer and flashier news stories have taken over, and Ebola started to disappear from the public eye, Ebola may be making a harsh comeback in coming months. With the onset of the rainy season in West Africa, new challenges arise in controlling the Ebola outbreak.
Since the ten-month low, transmission intensity and geographical span have increased despite rigorous efforts to control the disease. The main challenges have been identifying sources and community engagement, where there is still widespread resistance to the efforts. Officials are not largely concerned with the rainy season bringing increased transmission rates and more reported cases, but are concerned with the complications in their efforts at combating the disease.
The rainy season in West Africa brings with it higher prevalence of diseases, such as Malaria, that induce similar symptoms to Ebola. As more people exhibit these symptoms, more people need to be treated as though they may have the Ebola virus, meaning that more people will need to be tested for it. The rain also creates concern over infrastructure and travel, which could hinder efforts in the fight against Ebola.
Many experts in the field had hoped for and urged efforts to get the Ebola outbreaks under control before the rainy season began, and it seemed feasible to do so. The recent increases in transmission come as a disappointment and as a source of well-founded worry. While the public may have shifted gears and moved on from Ebola, health-care workers are shifting gears to be even more vigilant and intense to find those last strains of transmission. The World Health Organization has faced new challenges in the fight against Ebola, and will prevail through the challenges that the rainy season brings.
Even more fear arises from the fact that after reports of low transmission, and as the countries largely affected by the outbreak started to regain normalcy, many international actors backed out of the area. With new causes for concern and a need for increased testing coming with the rainy season, the foreign aid and international health workers are needed again, and soon.
Ebola infections are still more concentrated and more under control than at the start of the outbreak in December 2013, and with the new rainy season perhaps the increased testing will finally bring the last of the transmission chains to light.
– Emma Dowd