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Israel and the Fight against Ebola

November 26, 2014

by: Rebecca Brimmer, Editor-in-Chief

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jaddingt/Shutterstock.com Ebola—the word alone is enough to strike fear in hearts. Journalists cover in detail every person in the West who has contracted the deadly virus, which kills 50% of all who are infected. The World Health Organization (WHO), leaders of nations, and the UN are all holding emergency meetings to forge a plan to contain the virus, cure those infected and avoid a worldwide pandemic. Bible readers speak in terms of pestilence and perhaps even judgment. On a recent trip through the airport in Dallas Texas, everyone was talking about Ebola in worried tones—Ebola had come to Dallas onboard an international flight, two health officials had contracted the virus and many people were in quarantine. In the face of such a threat, Israel once again has stepped up to be part of the solution. Israelis respond to threats by coming up with solution. They do not allow fear to paralyze. Israel once again has proved to have a caring character as she reaches out to serve the world.

Israel providing assistance

IsraAID teams are training local communities about prevention and protection steps against infection. Photo by www.israAID.co.il Israel is dealing with the problem in a multi-pronged fashion. During an emergency UN Security Council meeting about Ebola, Ambassador Ron Prosor passionately stated, “Israel stands ready to join an international task force to combat the Ebola outbreak. In the meantime, we have sent emergency funding to Sierra Leone and medical supplies to Ethiopia, and sent experts in public health and infectious diseases to Cameroon.”

According to Israel21c Israel has sent more than a million shekels’ worth of medical equipment, as well as expert personnel to fight the spread of the African Ebola epidemic. WHO reported that as of October 23rd Ebola had claimed 4,922 lives (since March) and that there were 10,141 known cases.

“Israel is proud to be playing its part.” Prosor noted, “The Jewish faith teaches tikun olam—the obligation of every person to make the world a better place.” 

MASHAV is preparing medical aid to send to selected countries. Photo by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.gov.il An Israel21c article reported that MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry shipped three mobile emergency Ebola treatment units, equipped to handle the first cases that may be discovered, to the three countries deemed at the highest risk of infection.

“We are constructing the units in accordance with WHO standards and preparing them to be sent out by sea,” MASHAV director Gil Haskel said. “Each 10-bed unit will be accompanied by an Israeli team including technicians to construct them and train local personnel how to run them, and a doctor and a nurse under the auspices of the Health Ministry. They will train their African counterparts to educate at-risk populations on how to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Mobile Emergency Clinics Photo by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.gov.il Even before the mobile clinics arrived, Israel had already donated protective suits to African Union troops stationed in Ethiopia, and sent public health and infection disease experts to train hospitals in Cameroon on precautions to help keep citizens from contracting the deadly virus.

Prosor declared, “The time for global action is now. Tens of thousands of lives and the future of West Africa hang in the balance. Every country, no matter how small, has a role to play in combating the Ebola epidemic. We are standing at a crossroad. In our generation global health and development goals that once seemed unattainable are now within our reach.

Israeli “App” Technology in Fight against Ebola Virus

Israeli technology is being used to create an app to aid in communication in local African dialects to educate the population groups in their own languages.

It took 11 days for the volunteers to build the informational Ebola app. The content for the app was adapted from information on the websites of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. It was translated into African languages including Wolof, Jola and Swahili by a team of volunteers [Israel21c].

Since villagers who own smartphones are regarded highly in their communities, other residents of the village are more likely to listen to their advice about how to contain the virus and keep it from spreading to others.

Israeli Experts at work

Photo by www.israAID.co.il Israeli medical researchers believe that they will be able to find a cure—but this is not a short-term answer. Israel bio-tech pharmaceutical companies have stepped up and offered to produce more of the experimental treatment ZMapp (because the Western supply was quickly depleted). Patients using this experimental treatment have a much higher survival rate.

Prosor concluded his speech with a challenge, “This must be the moment when we unite to defeat this disease and strengthen health systems around the world so this tragedy is never repeated.”

We hope and pray that the world will cooperate as Prosor asks, but in the meantime you can know for sure that Israel will be on the frontline, fighting the war against Ebola, as they seek to bring healing to the world.

Ebola Virus Disease—Key Facts

  • Photo by Blablo 101 Shutterstock.com Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in West Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is the key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilization.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralize the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

Information provided by the World Health Organization

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