Ebola en innovatie

BOSTON – Er gaan niet alleen levens verloren in de voortdurende ebola-crisis. In recente discussies hoe de ziekte te bestrijden heeft de methodische strengheid van wetenschap en geneeskunde plaats gemaakt voor gezwollen politieke retoriek en publieke hysterie. Om de huidige uitbraak onder controle te krijgen is het van wezenlijk belang dat goed geïnformeerd, door data ondersteund overheidsbeleid topprioriteit blijft. Maar het is evenzeer belangrijk dat we uit deze epidemie lessen trekken om voorbereid te zijn op andere nieuwe ziekten.

De huidige ebola-uitbraak leert ons twee belangrijke lessen. Ten eerste moet het gevecht tegen één enkele ziekte niet ten koste gaan van het versterken van een heel zorgstelsel. Landen met fragiele zorgstelsels zijn misschien in staat om een bepaalde ziekte met hulp van NGO’s en buitenlandse investeringen te bestrijden, maar ze zijn waarschijnlijk gevaarlijk onvoorbereid als ze geconfronteerd worden met onverwachte uitbraken van onbekende ziekten.

In Liberia bijvoorbeeld daalde het percentage kinderen onder de vijf jaar met malaria van 66% in 2005 tot minder dan 32% in 2011. Desondanks was de infrastructuur van de gezondheidszorg toen het ebola-virus naar Liberia overstak uit buurland Guinee snel overweldigd. Er zijn meer dan 2000 Liberianen aan de ziekte gestorven en het virus heerst nog. Andere landen die het op bepaalde gebieden goed hebben gedaan (bijvoorbeeld in de strijd tegen ebola) zouden - tenzij ze hun zorgstelsels over de hele linie versterken - op gelijke wijze nog steeds met grote dodentallen en langdurige economische onrust te maken kunnen krijgen.

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