Western World Vulnerable To Epidemics, Warns Ebola Expert

Western World Vulnerable To Epidemics, Warns Ebola Expert
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Davos: Western world ‘vulnerable’ to epidemics, warns Ebola expert

Prof Peter Piot

The Western world is "vulnerable" to epidemics such as Ebola, and must invest more in researching vaccines, a leading scientist has warned.

Prof Peter Piot told the BBC that developed nations would be in "deep trouble" if they failed to adequately prepare for another outbreak.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, he urged global leaders to take a "long-term view".

Public health policies must "transcend politics and borders", he said.

Prof Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, and is now in charge of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

He said the UK was relatively well prepared for an outbreak, and praised NHS staff who travelled to West Africa to combat the recent Ebola epidemic.

The threat of Ebola, and other infectious diseases such as influenza and Sars, are set to be discussed in Switzerland this week, as politicians and business leaders from around the globe gather for the annual WEF.

'We weren't prepared'

Prof Piot, who will address the WEF alongside leaders of pharmaceutical companies and West African leaders, said he wanted audiences to understand that "we weren't prepared enough" for the Ebola outbreak that spread across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia last year.

Sitting in the heart of Davos' main conference centre, the affable Belgian, who previously helped lead the World Health Organisation's fight against Aids, said: "I bet everything I have that there will be other outbreaks."

A trial of an Ebola vaccine started in the US this month

"Our world is getting more vulnerable to big epidemics, because of population expansion, huge mobility and more intense contact between animals and people.

"My concern," he said, "is that when [the Ebola outbreak] is over we will just forget about it. We need to be better prepared and we need to invest in vaccines and treatment.

"It's like a fire brigade - you don't start to set up a fire brigade when some house is on fire."

 

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