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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
After Ebola: Curbing Infectious Diseases – 02/23/2015
Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov
Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff U.S. National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
An insightful plan to reduce the severity of global infectious disease outbreaks recently was outlined in an editorial published in Science.
The editorial’s three authors find serious infectious disease public health outbreaks, such as the 2014 Ebola virus, could be prevented or deterred by a series of steps to bolster global surveillance as well as enhance the responsive capability of public health officials, medical centers, and physicians.
The authors write (and we quote): ‘Ebola has underlined the need, and presented an opportunity, to modernize outbreak management,’ (end of quote).
To buttress global surveillance, the authors suggest substituting current reliance on a paper trial of clinical reports from nations where infectious outbreaks occur. Alternatively, the authors suggest monitoring could be significantly accelerated if public health officials paid attention to local social media and directly received and assessed citizen, patient, or provider-generated medical data from hand held devices. Ironically, this suggests your mobile phone potentially is a more valuable clinical tool than a paper-based patient record.
Similarly, the authors note scientific monitoring of infectious disease outbreaks (regardless of location) would accelerate if public health officials relied on new techniques such as risk modeling and serosurveillance. Risk modeling helps officials predict the likelihood of a serious disease outbreak before an epidemic occurs. Serosurveillance assesses the level of disease immunity in populations, which helps predict the effectiveness of existing vaccines, or a pressing need to develop new ones.
In addition, the authors note the new capability of scientists to analyze pathogen genetic information expedites the ability to understand if a disease is novel or similar to prior outbreaks. The process of pathogen genetic analysis that helped scientists assess if the Ebloa outbreak in Liberia was similar to cases in other W. African nations is explained in a website called ‘Genetic Clues to the 2014 Ebola outbreak’ (provided by the National Institutes of Health) within the ‘research’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s Ebola health topic page.
While the authors, who are officials at the World Health Organization (the WHO) and an infectious disease specialist at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, acknowledge some critics perceive that (and we quote) ‘gathering such information is…. an unnecessary distraction from immediate health needs’ (end of quote). The authors counter (and we quote); “these data are integral to the successful management of outbreaks today’ (end of quote).
The authors explain the Ebloa outbreak also underscores the need for more international preparedness to enhance the responsive capabilities of public health officials, medical centers and physicians. They write (and we quote): ‘We need to improve contingency planning and coordination; develop and stockpile diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines; set up sequencing pipelines and data-sharing protocols; and anticipate public engagement and ethical issues’ (end of quote).
The authors continue (and we quote): ‘Ebloa reminds us that wherever new diseases emerge, they can quickly and easily become international problems. In the event of a crisis, prior investment in infrastructure, training, and research will pay off many times over’ (end of quote).
Overall, it will be interesting to see if the authors’ suggestions are integrated into global efforts to curtail the impact of infectious disease outbreaks. The authors also provide a specific list of agencies that they suggest need to work together to deter the impact of global infectious disease outbreaks. Their list of suggested agencies includes: the WHO, the World Bank, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the International Monetary Fund. The authors’ list provides a way for all of us monitor global health progress by noting if the suggested coordination among these agencies does - or does not - occur.
Meanwhile, some basic questions and answers about the Ebola virus (and the impact of the outbreak) are available in a website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), which is available in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s Ebola health topic page.
The CDC also provides some basic questions and answers about the Ebola virus’s outbreak in W. Africa within the ‘research’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s Ebola health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s Ebola health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about Ebola as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s Ebola health topic page, type ‘Ebola’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Ebloa (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to international health. To find MedlinePlus.gov’s international health health topic page, type ‘global health’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘International health (National Library of Medicine).’
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