With this ever-present coronavirus cloud hanging over us, it’s hard to remember that in 2009 we had anxiety over another virus, Swine Flu (H1N1). Just 11 short years ago we were hearing of rapidly escalating cases and people dying around us from this influenza. It was declared a national emergency by the Department of Health and Human Services of the Obama administration.
The first case was reported in April 2009 and it swept through the nation and by April 2010 it was contained, with approximately 57 million Americans infected, nearly 257 thousand hospitalized, and more than 12 thousand died. That was just 11 years ago. With the H1N1 pandemic being so recent, you would think there would be a response playbook of sorts. When a contagion presents itself, this is what we do.
By contrast, in Africa in 2014 – 2015 the Ebola virus erupted across West Africa causing horrific death and panic in the region. Once it was contained, the World Health Organization (WHO) and doctors across the continent knew they needed to be prepared for the next outbreak. So, it turns out, there is a response playbook. In 2015, the WHO developed “WHO Strategic Response Plan: West Africa Ebola Outbreak.” This document outlines everything from response to recovery.
Because of the expertise gained in battling Ebola, countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) jumped into action as soon as they learned of the threat of COVID-19. “Having the Ebola screening in place made it easy for us to start screening for coronavirus disease,” says Dr. Aaron Aruna, Director of the Fight against Disease in the Ministry of Public Health in a February 20, 2020 paper from WHO.