Short memories and shorter media cycles mean that the West African Ebola crisis is now considered ‘fixed’. Several countries have been now declared free of the disease. But the recent outbreak of Zika provides a reminder of the cost of major outbreaks of serious infectious diseases.
First, the direct costs of containing and controlling the outbreak are significant. The humanitarian and medical aid costs of the West African Ebola crisis has run into billions of dollars. A 100-bed isolation facility costs around US$1-1.5 million or about US$10,000-15,000 a bed. It requires trained medical staff; Sierra Leone alone needed 750 additional doctors and 3,000 more nurses. These must be sourced from foreign countries, diverting resources.
Longer term, development of vaccines and prevention or treatment programmes becomes a significant recurring cost. One of the most insidious aspects of Ebola was the infection and death of West African health care professionals, already in limited supply. Rebuilding the health infrastructure is likely to be slow and expensive.