What the Ebola outbreak in 1985 has to teach us today

Written by Staff Writer

The closest example of this phenomenon is Russia, which recorded almost 6,000 deaths across 10 of its regions due to the pandemic. Most of those deaths occurred in Northern Siberia and Siberia’s Kamchatka peninsula. Approximately 1,380 people were infected. Russia went into a state of near complete economic collapse, and many took refuge in neighbouring countries — which saw surging COVID.

According to the World Health Organization , the pandemic “produced significant impacts globally through the re-emergence of previously drug-resistant strains of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), due to climate conditions.”

Cre, which occurs naturally as well as in animal species, is a group of bacteria that in rare instances develop resistance to the most common antibiotics, “which makes treatment by conventional classes of antibiotics less effective.” This introduced mutation was linked to an increase in the bacteria cases throughout the country. In one third of affected hospitals, hospitals had more bacteria that were resistant to the antibiotics than in the rest of the province combined.

Accustomed to Russian economic downturns, experts in Russia predicted that “without some efforts on the part of the government… Russia could soon face social collapse.” By March 2019, the global pandemic had claimed over half a million lives.

A similar scenario played out in the Indian state of Gujarat, where a public health program and a good Samaritan’s help helped prevent a spike in COVID among people living there.

On the evening of April 18, 2013, Christopher Bader was walking home along the Mithi river on a chilly night when he suffered a horrific case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Bader — who had previously spent four months in a Sierra Leone hospital — was in no condition to fend for himself and, to supplement his income, worked as a custodian in a six-story apartment block in the city of Ahmedabad.

According to Bader, “I developed so much severe sickness that my blood pressure had dropped to 44 degrees. I couldn’t walk up the stairs.” While his friends tried unsuccessfully to comfort him and tend to his condition, a passerby offered Bader a blanket and brought him inside the building.

A sweep of the common hallway turned up a bag belonging to a doctor from New Delhi, who had delivered four babies at a neighboring hospital. Bader believes the doctor was trying to bring him some rest. She offered him a sleep aid, and the two settled in together. The doctor consulted with her assistants on how best to treat Bader. They noticed that Bader’s sister was not feeling well and she suspected she could be the source of his unusual illness.

A fever

Later, when Bader’s temperature spiked, the doctor insisted on taking him to a nearby hospital. There, Bader was diagnosed with SARS, as were four of his colleagues. He woke up in a coma and was moved to a specialist hospital for intensive care.

Although those living in the building slept through the tragedy, the hospital — that had encountered Bader only once before — reported a sharp increase in COVID in the entire city. Within hours, Bader’s supply of the sleep aid had run out. He spent the next five days in intensive care and underwent an entire surgical procedure to remove the deadly virus.

While the New Delhi doctor was unavailable to comment on the matter, in an interview with CNN in 2013, she expressed concerns over safety conditions and working conditions in India’s healthcare system. The country is in a race against time to address medical health issues before global pandemics strike, and Bader’s sister continues to live in India, fearing new infections.

Sanitation and hygiene improvements

Within days of the outbreak, Ahmedabad’s government established a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) treatment facility, which followed the example of neighboring countries in India.

Each morning, patients are walked into these centers, and from there are transferred to city hospitals. This approach has led to a decline in COVIDs in Ahmedabad. From March 2013, according to data by the World Health Organization, there has been a 42% decrease in COVIDs, which likely account for the city’s ranking as one of the most sanitary in India — at number two in the overall country ranking of the same statistic.

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