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Why Isn’t Ebola Containment Working?

Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield | CNN   in 
September 14, 2014

(CNN) — When she was an undergraduate at Princeton University, books like “The Hot Zone” and “Virus Hunters” captivated Rebecca Levine, inspiring her to become a disease detective.

Fifteen years later, Lt. Rebecca Levine, a newly minted officer with the U.S. Public Health Service, stepped off a plane in West Africa to fight Ebola, ready to implement the key strategy she’d been taught: contact tracing.

The process that’s helped stop diseases like SARS and smallpox seems simple: Find everyone who had close contact with infected individuals and track them for 21 days. If any of these contacts comes down with the disease, isolate them from the community and repeat the process by tracking the contacts’ contacts.

But tracing works only if you have a list of the contacts and their addresses. When Levine arrived at a Ministry of Health office in Sierra Leone, she found that the database she needed was “pretty much in shambles.”


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