Doctors Without Borders: Don’t wait for Ebola magic bullets

Earlier this week I argued that hand-wringing over the lack of Ebola vaccines and drugs is misguided. We have effective tools to fight Ebola right now.

This week in the New England Journal of Medicine, physicians from WHO and Médecins sans Frontières make a similar argument much more eloquently:

There has recently been immense media, public, and medical attention to specific treatments for Ebola virus infection. Although these experimental interventions represent important potential treatments, they also reflect our seemingly innate focus on developing magic bullets. It seems that focusing on reducing mortality in the existing “control group” by applying the current standard of care is less interesting, even if much more likely to be effective. Though we recognize the potential incremental value of new antiviral options, we believe that EVD requires a greater focus on available basic care…

Public health interventions including characterizing the outbreak epidemiology, contact tracing, social mobilization, and public education are essential steps in stopping Ebola and will ultimately save many more lives than can be saved by individual patient care…

Excellent clinical care and improved outcomes will result in improved community compliance, will help to break transmission chains, and will lead to a greater willingness of health care workers to engage in care delivery. To quote William Osler, “The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.”