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September 15, 2015

The Response to Ebola—Looking Back and Looking Ahead: The 2015 Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award

Author Affiliations
  • 1Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders USA, New York, New York
JAMA. 2015;314(11):1115-1116. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.11645

The 2015 Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award is given to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for its bold response and leadership in fighting the Ebola outbreak in Africa. This Viewpoint describes the challenges involved in responding to this outbreak and the importance of ongoing research and preparedness efforts.

The 2014-2015 West Africa Ebola outbreak is a stark reminder that a health crisis in one place can quickly spiral into a major regional humanitarian emergency or even a global challenge. As of mid-August 2015, there have been nearly 28 000 Ebola cases (including confirmed, probable, and suspected cases) and more than 11 000 deaths1 (although these numbers likely underestimate the true disease burden). Much of this toll could have been prevented by an early, robust international response. Thus it stands as a grim reflection of failures—of collective political will, of global emergency response systems, and of the research and development (R&D) systems that, prior to this outbreak, failed to produce an effective vaccine, drug, or rapid diagnostic test since the first identification of Ebola in 1976.