Ebola: What went wrong?

The current Ebola crisis has claimed over ten thousand lives in West Africa, and continues to cause hundreds of new infections every week. Yet, media coverage of the crisis had been meager up until the summer of 2014, an entire half-year after the start of the outbreak in late 2013. The world’s delayed reaction has generated criticism for both public ignorance and for lackluster government response. But where did we go wrong? What could we have done differently that may have changed the course of this epidemic?

To get a better understanding of these difficult questions, we spoke with Princeton University’s Adel Mahmoud, a professor in both The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and The Department of Molecular Biology. Professor Mahmoud’s research focuses on the causes and emergence of infectious diseases, as well as the discovery, development, and global deployment and use of vaccines.

Question: What was the biggest shortcoming of the US and West African governments’ response to the Ebola crisis?

Answer: We were coming from behind in the response. This is a virus that we have known to exist since 1976. Continue reading

Measuring up a Vaccine: The Meningitis B Immune Response Study

This past November, students from Princeton University’s incoming freshman class lined up atop Icahn Laboratory’s Oval Lounge to participate in an immune response study to the meningitis B vaccine. That clinic was the second round of a large-scale public health study being conducted by Professor Nicole Basta, an infectious disease epidemiologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

After nine cases of meningitis B broke out at Princeton in 2013, University Health Services (UHS) worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to approve an emergency vaccination campaign. Continue reading