Behind Virus: Social Factors that Makes Ebola Treating More Challenging

I remember at the first class of Introduction to Public Health class, Dr. Scott invited Dr. Gilsdorf from medical school to give us a lecture about current spot topic: Ebola. Before attending the lecture, I prepared several questions to ask Dr. Gilsdorf and one of them is since American government can take infectious American doctors back to States and successfully cure him at Emory University, why can’t we share success tips with African people or take some badly ill patients to Emory? Due to limited lecture time, I didn’t get the chance to ask those question and that bothers me a lot. I even feel disappointed and a little bit of anger because this is one typical health care disparity and inequality. However, after went to the “Ebola and Public Health” panel discussion last Thursday, I have to admit that my original views are too naïve to consider all possible of other factors that limit Ebola treating.

One of the most essential factor is based on the economic status of most Ebola affected countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Dr. Snow from population studies center presented us the average health care cost per capital before Ebola break in these countries, which ranges from $67 to $171, compared to $ 8233 in the United States. They have way higher maternal death and premature death also. Both data indicates these three countries do not have advanced health system; the health of women and children cannot be well protected especially. Unfortunately, as we all know, women and children are the most risky population to get Ebola since they have weaker immunity system and children are easily get infected by their mothers.

Then the other speaker guide us to do a math about the amount of money cost to treat a single Ebola patient. Ebola patient must be isolated so he/she will need his/her own area and one single lab to run possible infectious sample for him/her. The patient will need 2 to 3 24/7 health care providers to monitor and record data, at least 2 lab analysts, and more doctors and research team members. Hospital might have to vacate the floor for this Ebola patients since normal people are too afraid to share the same floor with him/her, which decrease hospital’s income. Adding all possible costs, it is estimated that treating a single Ebola patient with Ebola costs roughly $500,000 in total and around $14,000 per day for two weeks. For now, only 50% hospitals in the States have the equipment and personal to admit no more than 1 Ebola patient, in worst case scenario.

Based on these two points I just mentioned, it is not hard to understand why it is almost impossible to cure Ebola in those three countries currently due to their economic status.

Moreover, urbanization of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia highly increase the interpersonal contact rate, which is another reason why this Ebola break have impacted huge amount of people. Unfortunately, this social change cannot be modified in very short amount of time and it becomes another obstacle of Ebola treating. Other factors including trust issues to health care providers sent from the States, their beliefs to Voodoo curing (normally needs to draw blood from sick people), their limited epidemiology knowledge and cultural habits of inhumation as well as high adaptation of Ebola virus all make Ebola treating more challenging.

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