The West African countries that were deeply impacted by Ebola are now seeking to understand exactly how the virus spread and why the outbreak happened, despite early warning systems being in place.
Sierra Leone used the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) system. It had existed since 2003, but it wasn’t being used when the outbreak happened. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with local officials to revamp the system and prepare for another outbreak.
"It’s not just about collecting data but making sure there's a response capacity, so we've worked with districts to make sure there is," Anders Nordstrom, WHO representative in Sierra Leone, said.
The virus has mostly been eradicated in these countries, but they remain on high alert. Cases continue to pop up, however. The system caught a case in Guinea on Jan. 11; WHO and other health officials were onsite within hours to make sure prevention measures were in place.
"We were terrified thinking we had tripped back into the hands of Ebola, since the people were vomiting and had diarrhea -- all typical of the deadly disease," Amadu Kamara, chief of the Kania village, said.
It’s important to make sure the system remains operational, so measures can be taken in the event of another outbreak.
"It is good that we now have the IDSR system in place to serve as a major trigger for prevention and response," Dr. Foday Sesay, Kambia’s district medical offficer, said. "The ongoing investigation of the suspected cases, planning and preparedness that are happening were triggered because our health workers at the facility level were able to detect an unusual event, which -- if they had missed -- could have derailed our health gains."