New tech employed to manage Ebola outbreak

December 6, 2014 in Medical Technology

It appears almost definite at this point that the Ebola outbreak is likely to get worse, and very much so, before it shows any signs of lessening.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, in fact, projected that the number of infected people could potentially double every 20 days if nothing is done – a figure that could skyrocket to 1.4 million by January’s end.

And if that “if nothing is done” scenario seems hyperbolic, the World Health Organization has said it needs “a 20-fold increase” in the number of public health workers to effectively manage the virus and treat infected patients.

Making matters worse, the crisis is already viewed as underfunded and devastating to West Africa, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and overall costs could increase by as much as 8 times the current status, World Bank estimates suggest.

Fed, private sector relief

Donations are flowing from the private sector. Technology billionaires Bill Gates and Paul Allen, for instance, committed to sending $50 million and some $20 million, respectively.

Indeed, the donations are creeping up toward the bare minimum $600 million that the United Nations estimated it will cost — with the total $326 million to date, nearly $300 million of which came in since September 1, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The American government is among those contributing as well. Last week President Barack Obama pledged more than $500 million and 3,000 troops to deploy to West Africa.

New technologies and technologists

Government entities in the U.S. and abroad are moving to harness personnel and technologies to better manage the outbreak.

The U.N established the Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, described as its first mission addressing a public health crisis. The CDC, for its part, built the Ebola Response mission tool to project future cases and, ideally, slow the epidemic down.

President Obama also announced the U.S. would be training as many as 500 public health workers and dispatching one of its highest-profile technologists: White House CIO Steven VanRoekel is leaving his position to spearhead the government’s use of technology in its battle against the Ebola virus.

VanRoekel will join the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, as it responds to the outbreak and manage tasks such as the analysis of real-time data that officials hope can contain the spread of the deadly virus, The Hill reported, citing an administration official.

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