Committee: World Health Organization (WHO)
Delegate: Rosalyn Li
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks. In 2014-2016, the largest Ebola outbreak since the virus’s discovery started in Guinea and moved across land borders, infecting 28,600 people and killing 11,300. Soon after, in 2018, there was a new outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has infected about 2,800 known patients, killing more than 1,800 of them. Both the virus causing the current outbreak and the 2014-2016 outbreak belongs to the Zaire ebolavirus species. After a person is infected with Ebola, they develop symptoms from 2 to 21 days after contact with the virus, averaging from 8 to 10 days. Ebola symptoms have similarities with many other illnesses, such as influenza, malaria, and typhoid fever. A person can only spread the Ebola virus to others through direct contact of bodily fluids after they have developed symptoms.
The recent outbreak in DRC is finally slowing down, as 50 people were diagnosed with Ebola between September 25 and October 15, compared to 300 new diagnoses in 3 weeks during the outbreak’s peak. This was partly due to the development of two new Ebola drugs. One of the drugs is REGN-EB3, a combination of three monoclonal antibodies against Ebola made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals of Tarrytown, New York. The second drug is mAB114 produced from a single antibody from the blood of an Ebola survivor, developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The survival rate for people who received either drug shortly after infection was 90%. In a trial of 499 people, only 29% and 34% of people who received REGN-EB3 and mAB114 died, respectively. In contrast, the typical mortality rate for Zaire Ebola virus species ranges from 50-90%. Most importantly, the recent development of a vaccine for Ebola has decreased mortality rates. The European Union has granted marketing authorization to Merck & Co’s vaccine for the Zaire strain of Ebola, Ervebo. The vaccine was designed at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, with help from a collaborative effort from response workers in Canada, US, Europe, and Africa. While the vaccine is still being used under the compassionate use protocol, more than 250,000 people have been vaccinated. Merck has committed to make the vaccine available to countries needing the vaccine at the lowest price possible, and has been donating the vaccine.
Germany is one of the biggest donor countries to the Ebola cause, providing €75 million (85 million USD) over five years to the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. It is also one of the largest government donors for GAVI, the vaccine alliance, which provides vaccines to treat Ebola in the Congo. Furthermore, Germany has operated a Bundeswehr airlift to transport more than 500 tonnes of aid supplies. A training facility was also developed in Mali as preparation for epidemics. The facility can be used for rapid identification of highly pathogenic biological agents and played a major role in containing the Ebola infections in the country in 2014. Similarly, Germany has been quipping and running a Severe Infection Temporary Treatment Unit in Liberia for the treatment and identification of Ebola patients.
There are three main parts to stopping Ebola outbreaks. First is diagnosing patients. The common problem is that many regions affected by Ebola are deeply troubled with high levels of social disruption caused by war and international civil conflict, resulting in distrust of healthcare workers. To solve this, social mobilization, health education, and psychosocial support must be provided on a normal basis to create trust. Furthermore, since patients’ crossing between borders and mass gatherings spread the disease more quickly, in extreme circumstances mass gatherings and market days should be cancelled, similar to Uganda’s response to their Ebola outbreak. A second key portion of stopping Ebola outbreaks is efficient responses to isolate and monitor patients. Trained healthcare workers are needed to provide good treatment and care. A main reason the Ebola virus was able to spread so quickly and last so long during the 2014-2016 outbreak was the lack of healthcare workers. West Africa countries had a ratio of only one to two doctors per 100,000 citizens.
The final component to stopping Ebola outbreaks is prevention, including healthcare infection control and safe burial practices. With the recent development of the Ebola vaccine, after the approval of the vaccine, all people should be able to gain access to the vaccine with a low price point. Health systems are crucial to the prevention of Ebola. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, all countries affected by Ebola, are among the poorest countries in the world with basic health infrastructures severely damaged or destroyed as a result of civil war. Road systems, transportation services, and telecommunications are also weak in all three countries, allowing for the Ebola outbreak. The international community needs to come together to help those in need. For example, Germany developed a training facility to control epidemics in Mali. Not only would developing healthcare infrastructure monitor and cure Ebola patients, this infrastructure could also help train local health care workers. In the end, countries will be able to become more self-reliant and end Ebola outbreaks.
 “Ebola Virus Disease.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ebola-virus-disease.
 “Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Nov. 2019, www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.
 Maxmen, Amy. “Two Ebola Drugs Show Promise amid Ongoing Outbreak.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 12 Aug. 2019, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02442-6.
 Branswell, Helen. “Ebola Vaccine Approved in Europe, in Landmark Moment for Global Health.” STAT, 12 Nov. 2019, www.statnews.com/2019/11/11/ebola-vaccine-approved-in-europe-in-landmark-moment-in-fight-against-a-deadly-disease/.
 “Germany Boosts Support for Tackling DR Congo Ebola Outbreak: DW: 23.02.2019.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/en/germany-boosts-support-for-tackling-dr-congo-ebola-outbreak/a-47658564.
 “Germany Extends Cooperation on Biosecurity to Include the Sahel Region.” German Federal Foreign Office, 16 Nov. 2016, www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/abruestung/projekte/-/218592.
 “Germany’s Contribution to Fighting Ebola.” Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations, https://new-york-un.diplo.de/un-en/themen/german-contribution-ebola/910674
 Paweska, Janusz. “Why Is It Hard to Stop Ebola Spreading?” World Economic Forum, 20 June 2019, www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/why-its-hard-to-stop-ebola-spreading-between-people-and-across-borders/.
 “Factors That Contributed to Undetected Spread of the Ebola Virus and Impeded Rapid Containment.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 22 Sept. 2015, www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/one-year-report/factors/en/.
- Rosalyn Li