Paul Auwaerter, MD, MBA, President IDSA
Melanie Thompson, MD, Chair HIVMA
Paul Spearman, MD, FPIDS, President PIDS
Keith Kaye, MD, MPH, FSHEA
The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced May 8 has highlighted meaningful advances as well as critical needs that continue in the wake of the epidemic across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that ended two years ago. Because of an immediate response by the World Health Organization and partners to the confirmation of one case in the remote rural Bikoro health zone, mobile laboratories are in operation, 14 cases have been confirmed, and contact tracing as well as community engagement are underway. People who have been potentially exposed to the virus will receive a promising, investigational Ebola vaccine. All of this represents remarkable progress, due to investments in science, in practice, and in the recognition that solidarity is essential to effective infectious disease interventions globally. WHO officials Friday cited the swiftness, collaboration, and coordination of the response so far among the reasons that the outbreak does not now meet their criteria for declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
But the challenges remain formidable, with the remoteness of the region where the first cases were discovered, and the vulnerability of neighboring communities, cities and nations, posing a daunting combination of obstacles to the response, and risk of international spread. The identification of four cases in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people, confirms the urgency of closing gaps in resources and capacities that fuel the spread Ebola. For those reasons, the WHO committee will revisit the threats posed by this advancing outbreak.
It is essential now to take stock of what needs to be done, not just to reach, diagnose, and care for those who have been affected by this outbreak, and to contain its spread, but to improve future responses, and prevent future threats from Ebola and other diseases. Funding allocated by Congress in 2014 to support responses to the outbreak in West Africa have gone a long way toward supporting the enhanced global health security needed to accomplish those goals. Continued investments in global health security and biomedical research are essential to maintaining the momentum now underway. On the same day the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was announced, however, the White House made its own announcement, of a proposal to rescind $252 million of funding supporting USAID’s global health security efforts.
As organizations of more than 12,000 infectious diseases, pediatric infectious diseases and HIV physicians, as well as infection prevention specialists, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the HIV Medicine Association, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America offer our solidarity, support, and expertise to the outbreak response in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We urge Congress to support those efforts as well, by rejecting White House rescission proposals and by basing robust funding for global health security and biomedical research on the realities reflected in the current Ebola outbreak.