What started as an Ebola outbreak in West Africa has evolved into a world-wide threat, with the first European case having been reported in Spain. MEPs labelled the outbreak “a global security challenge” in a resolution adopted on 18 September and said that the international community has underestimated the crisis. According to the World Health Organization, 4,447 people have already died because of Ebola. We discussed the issue with the chairs of the development and public health committees.
The resolution adopted by MEPs in September called on the European Commission to intensify efforts to combat the outbreak. We asked Linda McAvan, chair of the development committee, and Giovanni La Via, chair of the public health committee, for their views on the crisis.
Ebola in Europe
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control described the transmission risk of Ebola in Europe as extremely low. McAvan said: “The rapid spread of Ebola in the worst affected countries can be attributed largely to poverty and the absence of comprehensive healthcare.” Referring to the situation in Europe, she said: “We have the benefit of resources far superior to those in West Africa.”
On 6 October authorities in Madrid reported a confirmed case of Ebola in a nursing assistant.. La Via commented: “the very high standards of health and preventative care” lower the risk of contracting Ebola in Europe, but it is not possible to avoid isolated cases.
Global security challenge
In the September resolution MEPs declared the Ebola outbreak to be a global security challenge and not simply a West African problem. McAvan said “to beat Ebola, we have to deal with the problem at source.” She said the European Commission’s commitment of €180 million was one of the ways in which Europe has been helping to fight the epidemic.
Asked how concerned she is about the threat posed, McAvan said she was “convinced that if we act quickly and in a coordinated way we can contain the virus.” She said that when EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg on 20 October “they need to consider just how quickly we can turn international promises of help into hospital beds on the ground.”
Meanwhile La Via highlighted the need “to guarantee that European health systems are prepared for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola, should the need arise.”