As I begin my term as president of IDSA in the midst of the Ebola outbreak, one thing is certain: the need for the expertise and leadership of infectious diseases professionals and of this Society continues to be great. |
Each day brings new developments and challenging circumstances, be they worsening of the epidemic in West Africa, new cases of infection cared for here in the U.S., new government protocols, reactions by local government officials, or managing potential public hysteria. I continue to be impressed by the commitment of the membership of this organization to respond to the crisis with the best scientific information, training and guidance. As many have said, a coordinated international response is needed to get this outbreak under control, and IDSA is contributing to that response in many ways.
From the time the outbreak began in West Africa, ID experts have been assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies in their response by lending expertise. Most recently, IDSA reached out to the newly appointed Ebola czar, Ron Klain, to let him know that we are available and ready to actively participate in the U.S. and international response to this public health threat.
IDSA’s Rapid Communications Task Force, led by Marguerite A. Neill, MD, FIDSA, has kept the membership abreast of the latest information, including CDC alerts, lessons learned at Emory University, and guidance from IDSA.
In response to actions taken by several states to impose mandatory involuntary quarantines on healthcare workers returning from Ebola-affected countries, IDSA issued a statement opposing such policies. The statement strongly iterated the scientific facts about transmission, highlighted the systems that are in place to prevent transmission, and expressed concern about the unintended consequence of such a policy on the willingness of healthcare workers to lend their assistance where it is so desperately needed in West Africa. Controlling the outbreak at its source in West Africa is the most important way to control the spread of this disease.
To that end, the IDSA Board of Directors has approved $100,000 to fund 40 service grants that are being made available through our Center for Global Health Policy to members who volunteer in West Africa. The details of these grants are still in development, and information will be online in the coming days.
Another significant challenge we face is controlling public fear. It is critical that we as ID professionals continue to communicate the scientific facts, emphasizing that while Ebola is certainly a serious disease, it is not transmitted through casual contact, and that the likelihood of a generalized outbreak in the United States is low. In just the last month, IDSA spokespersons have fielded nearly 100 media requests, helping to educate the public about transmission, hospital and healthcare worker preparedness, and the U.S. response to the cases that have surfaced domestically.
We are facing the largest outbreak of Ebola in history. The knowledge and experience of the infectious diseases professional is critical to bringing it to an end. I personally thank each of you for the contributions you have and will continue to make, whether that is by helping to educate your colleagues, prepare your facility, or simply to quell the fears of those not in our field by continuing to emphasize the best science available.
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