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The Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Overview of the Event

The Ebola outbreak is West Africa is one of the biggest concerns among world leaders in the current society. According to Blokehead (2014), the outbreak begun in December 2013 when a person tested positive of the Ebola virus in Guinea. It then spread very quickly to the neighboring nations of Liberia, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal. The disease hit this region when the authorities were least prepared for it. The society knew very little about Ebola when it struck. They did not know how to identify someone who is infected, how to avoid infection, and the best way of managing the patients. This explains why the first initial cases led to massive spread of the disease. When the government informed the public that the disease is spread through direct contact with the fluids of an infected person, the situation was worsened, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leon, and Guinea that were worst hit by this virus. Those who were infected were discriminated against by the society as everyone tried to distance themselves from the affected individuals.

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The situation did not get any better when some of the health practitioners who were attending to the Ebola patients got infected and perished. Some of the medical practitioners who had been trained on how to handle Ebola patients withdrew from hospitals for fear for their lives. Another challenge was that this disease was not restricted to these West African countries. Imported cases were reported in the United States and Spain. In fact, one person in the United States died of Ebola. This was a clear indication that this was no longer an issue concerning these countries. It has become a global phenomenon, and every country is looking for means of managing this disease just in case the outbreak occurs. In this situation report, the focus will be to determine how the country can enhance its preparedness in order to manage the emergency in case there is a serious outbreak of Ebola disease.

Analysis

According to Blokehead (2014), the United States has only witnessed minor cases of imported Ebola disease, specifically among the American doctors who were sent to help improve the situation in West African countries. However, the reality is that this disease is can easily spread among the American population very fast in case there is an outbreak. The free movement of the people from these West African countries to the United States only demonstrates how easy this outbreak can occur. although the official figures indicates that only 17,145 cases have been recorded out of which 6402 people died, the truth is that close to 20,000 people have died of Ebola since it was first detected in 2013. Most of the cases have not been registered because the deaths were never reported. In other cases, governments in these regions have been hiding the truth as a way of protecting their image to the world society. The United States should be ready for a possible outbreak of this fatal disease. One person perished while receiving treatment in one of the best hospitals in this country. This should be a warning that in case of an outbreak, the impact can be catastrophic. This is specifically so because doctors are yet to come up with proper medication for the disease. The medicines that are currently in use are still under test, and vaccination against it is yet to be found. This situation report proposes a strategy that should be used by the Emergency Management Unit at the Ministry of Health in order to manage emergency in case of an outbreak (Kumar, 2007). Of the four phases of emergency management, this report lays emphasis on disaster preparedness as the best approach that should be used to counter the outbreak.

Preparedness

The recent events have clearly indicated that the possibility of a serious outbreak of Ebola occurring in this country cannot be overruled. Two cases have already been reported in the country, one of which ended with death. This grim statistics should sound a warning to all the concerned parties to act now in order to protect Americans. Instead of waiting for the time when this will happen and taking a reactive approach to managing the outbreak, the ministry should take a proactive approach and put in place measures that will help counter the problem as soon as it is detected. Emergency preparedness is the best approach that this country should take in the fight against Ebola. Takaaki and Rajib (2007) define preparedness as “Plans or procedures designed to save lives and to minimize damage when an emergency occurs” (p. 220). The Ministry of Health should engage in capacity building at this stage in order to find ways through which it can manage the emergency in case it occurs. The following are some of the areas that will need to be given attention.

Communication plans

According to Blokehead (2014), one of the reasons, why Ebola has been a disaster in West Africa is because of misinformation. In this plan, the department of health will design effective messages and pass them to the public as early as possible. As at now, these awareness campaigns should be run in mass and social media in order to enlighten the public. People should know how to avoid a possible infection, to detect the symptoms of the disease, and how to manage self or others around us who may be infected with the virus. Other than the public, the health experts who are directly involved in the management of this disease should have an effective communication system that would help them coordinate when addressing cases of emergency. An Integrated Electronic Health Records will be very important when handling Ebola patients. Once a doctor handles the patent, all the relevant data will be available to the next doctor for easier management of the patients. The management units at these hospitals should also have direct ways of communicating with the relevant government officials whenever there is an issue that needs their attention (Eyre, 2009).

Trainings

When the disaster struck in West Africa, most of the doctors did not know how to deal with the situation. Doctors had to be flown from various parts of the world to help deal with the situation. This lack of preparedness resulted into loss of thousands of lives. Life has already been lost in this country because of Ebola, and this is an indication that health experts need more training on how to handle the disease. Each of the major hospitals in all the states should have a unit specifically prepared to deal with Ebola cases. A group of doctors and nurses should be trained on how to deal with cases of Ebola. The trained doctors should then be sent to some of the worst hit regions in the world such as Sierra Leon and Liberia to help combat the disease. Not only will they be helping stop the spread of the disease to other parts of the world, but will also be gaining valuable experience on how to manage this crisis. In case they are needed back home, they will have the right skills and experience on how to handle patients.

Supplies and equipment

The United States and Europe have been sending supplies and equipment to West Africa to help in combating the disease. Back at home, there is need to have the right supplies and equipment that will be necessary when combating a serious outbreak within the country. All the major hospitals in this country must have all the relevant kits needed for the diagnosis of the disease. The medical team should have the right medicine that is needed for the treatment of the patients.

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Lessons Learned

This emergency event has brought with it massive lessons to the international community. As mentioned before, close to 20,000 people have so far lost their lives since the outbreak of the Ebola. The first lesson that comes out clearly is that lack of planning may be a recipe for disaster when handling disasters. The events, which took place in West Africa, was an indication that the governments in these countries were not prepared for this disaster. The fact that one patient died in the United States right in the hospital also emphasizes on the fact that the world was not prepared for this outbreak. Another lesson learnt was that public awareness is one of the best tools when managing a disaster. Lack of knowledge resulted into massive spread of this disease during its initial stages. When the information came out about how it is spread, the public was misinformed, and this worsened the situation as the society shunned those who were infected. Finally, the case clearly shows that in order to manage a disaster, teamwork is of paramount importance.

Conclusion

The Ebola outbreak that started in West Africa and spread to the United States and Spain has largely been considered a disaster. The approach taken to respond to this disaster was very poor, and the result was a massive loss of lives. In the United States, one person died of Ebola when undergoing treatment. The second person was successfully treated and discharged. The rate of new infections in West Africa has been on the rise despite the efforts put by the international community. This is a clear demonstration that the government of the United States should initiate disaster preparedness plans in readiness of a possible outbreak.

Recommendations

The findings in this situation report shows that this society is facing eminent danger of Ebola outbreak. The following are some of the recommendations that the authority should consider taking seriously.

  • Increase public awareness about Ebola through the social and mass media platforms.
  • Train more medical staff on Ebola management and if possible, take them to West Africa so that they can have firsthand experience on how to deal with the problem.
  • Equip all the major medical facilities so that they can be ready for any emergency.
  • Encourage research among the medical practitioners so that they can determine effective ways of managing Ebola.

References

Blokehead, T. (2014). Ebola Outbreak Survival Guide 2015: 5 Key Things You Need To Know About The Ebola Pandemic. Sidney: Yap Kee Chong.

Eyre, A. (2009). Disaster Management in South-East Asia: Emergency Response and Planning in the Coming Millennium. Risk Management, 1(2), 67-70.

Kumar, J. (2007). Disaster Management and Social Development. International Review of Modern Sociology, 27(1), 57-67.

Takaaki, M. & Rajib, S. (2007). Corporate Community Interface in Disaster Management. Risk Management, 9(4), 209-222.

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