West Africa, Under the Radar Again

While partisan bickering about funding drags on in the US, one of the options on the table is to pull $107 million slated for rebuilding health systems in West Africa after the Ebola epidemic.

That would be shortsighted, writes Cameron Nutt, a Harvard Medical student—and not only because it would risk a recurrence of Ebola and other setbacks for a region saddled with high maternal and child mortality rates. Nutt points to signs that the Zika virus poses a greater threat to West Africa than is widely assumed—and that there could be an undetected epidemic of microcephaly there tied to the virus.

“Unfortunately, the world seems to need repeated reminders that the absence of diagnostic capability is not the same as the absence of disease,” writes Nutt. He also recalls an important warning from Paul Farmer on the threat of emerging diseases: “One place for diseases to hide is among poor people, especially when the poor are socially and medically segregated from those whose deaths might be considered more important.”

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