Ebola is almost no longer in the news, despite the continued rise in cases and deaths. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Ebola has claimed more than 8,400 people out of the 21,000 cases reported.
Experts agree the Ebola outbreak in West Africa won’t officially be considered over until there are zero cases of Ebola. In order to do so, innovative solutions must be developed and implemented.
To help fill this gap, Paul G. Allen and his TackleEbola initiative have brought on Dr. Peter Piot to serve as science advisor. Dr. Piot knows the Ebola virus better than anyone. In 1976, the scientist discovered Ebola, before it had a name. Dr. Piot will advise with the initiative’s Ebola strategy and execution.
“We are fortunate to have one of the world’s leading experts on Ebola and global health to the Tackle Ebola team,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Director of the Ebola Program. ”Dr. Piot’s expertise will prove invaluable in our efforts to help stop Ebola.”
Few people know the delicate balance between global health, politics and socioeconomic development in Africa quite like Dr. Piot and few people have had such extensive leadership in spearheading reform there.
In 1995, he was the founding director of UNAIDS, a joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, and led the organization through 2008. It was under his direction that UNAIDS became the chief voice for world action against the AIDS epidemic.
His work changed the narrative around AIDS. The virus is no longer the death sentence that it was once and funding for treatments and research has dramatically increased. In 2013, an estimated $19.1 billion was made available for low and middle-income countries to fight AIDS.
On the heels of a recent trip to Sierra Leone, Dr. Piot came to Seattle to meet with the Tackle Ebola team. He shared firsthand lessons and insight as well as hope that the outbreak can end in 2015.
The “perfect storm” of factors that allowed the Ebola virus to ignite are being addressed. Through the help of governments like the United States, United Kingdom and many NGOs, health systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are getting the healthcare workers and equipment that were so desperately needed. Traditional burial practices are being changed to limit the spread of the virus and many more people in these impacted areas are aware of Ebola and its symptoms.
In a session with several dozen employees from Mr. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., Dr. Piot said he joined the TackleEbola initiative not only because of Mr. Allen’s commitment toward stopping the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but also in his focus on preventing another health disaster like it. He said the willingness to explore innovation solutions will be crucial in the fight against Ebola and other potential health threats.