The individualised versus the public health approach to treating Ebola

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLOS Medicince

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

The mortality rate for patients with Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa is approximately 65% [1]. There are no published figures for high-resource settings, but media sources and individual case reports suggest it is much lower and approaches 0% for those who receive this level of care from the beginning of their illness. In their article "Ebola Viral Disease: Experience and Decision Making for the First Cases outside of Africa," David Stephens and colleagues give insight into the care that can be provided when available resources are not the limiting factor [2]. They describe the decision to open the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit (SCDU) of Emory University Hospital (EUH) when two United States patients contracted EVD while working in West Africa. Using a large specialist team, they provided high-quality care in a safe working environment and disseminated their knowledge and experience widely. In particular, they were able to respond to the huge increase in requests from health care facilities in the US for help in excluding the diagnosis of EVD. Caring for patients using an individualised approach under ideal circumstances contrasts with, but can also inform, the public health approach to care under resource-limited conditions in West Africa. The models of care employed in each environment show some similarities and also have a number of key differences.