COVID-19 has caused a lot of sadness in the world. Although some countries may have managed to contain the spread of the virus, others are still struggling against the grip of COVID and have to return to various restrictions or lockdowns. Many people, including scientists, have questioned why the pandemic could not be handled or controlled better.
Dr. Tom Frieden has experience working to control a number of epidemics. He is a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to him, we can never know if COVID can actually be stopped.
Dr. Frieden said the important thing we need to understand is that every day public health workers and health workers around the world are working to stop the epidemic.
Another deadly coronavirus, dubbed MERS, appeared in the Middle East nearly a decade ago. Dr. Frieden recounted his experience while still serving as director of the CDC.
Dr. Frieden always asked people if they had ever remembered the great MERS outbreak in America, and they would look confused and then say they didn’t. Dr. Frieden later said that it had never happened in America. He explained that the CDC had established a way to test it, then warned doctors. So they found some cases of MERS, but they didn’t spread.
Dr. Frieden now heads the organization Resolve to Save Lives, who has studied how even poor countries have managed to beat epidemics. The study draws on a number of examples of how countries have succeeded in stopping epidemics or preventing them from occurring through good leadership, investment in health facilities and health workers, as well as through community involvement.
Anthrax is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil. The bacteria are lethal to grazing animals, unless the animals are vaccinated.
Anthrax can also kill humans who handle or eat infected meat.
In Kenya, volunteers have been trained to watch for signs of the disease and report them. Two years ago, anthrax had plagued a tribal community. A volunteer reported it, then health workers took immediate action, and more than 10,000 animals were vaccinated. As a result, an epidemic was stopped on the spot.
When the Ebola epidemic in West Africa ended five years ago, Nigeria was spared by an active polio vaccination program.
The health workers are already connected to the community, and they know how to do contact tracing and how to interpret data from the laboratory.
Amanda McClelland was in West Africa at the time of the epidemic. He currently serves as Senior Vice President of the Resolve to Save Lives organization.
Amanda said the use of the polio team in Lagos was one of the success stories they had seen how to be strengthened.
Nigeria managed to control the Ebola outbreak in just about two months, compared to the two years spent by the other three countries. With the right infrastructure, the right leadership and fast action, Dr. Frieden says some epidemics are not only preventable, they have been prevented. Countries must work together to prevent the spread of disease throughout the world.
One thing experts say we can learn from COVID-19, is that the world is not prepared for the next pandemic, which they say will happen again. [aa/lt]