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Ebola is just one example of the many emerging and re-emerging diseases that continue to affect mainly the developing world. We argue that the unprecedented high level of infections and deaths in the 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic, together with the more general impact of Ebola and other emerging diseases on societies, is reflective of the unpreparedness of affected countries prior to an outbreak. Typically, the healthcare systems of most low-income countries are inadequately prepared to be able to deal with such large and unexpected outbreaks. In this paper, we attempt to analyse the emergence and spread of the West African Ebola epidemic, reviewing the situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone prior to the 2013-2016 outbreak. We also highlight some of the additional societal burdens that the outbreak has placed on these countries. By drawing lessons from this epidemic, as well as case studies of other (re-)emerging epidemic infections through a combination of literature searches and news reports, combined with the views of 10 international experts, we develop eight actions that might help potentially susceptible countries and the international community to prevent, contain or better respond to possible future outbreaks.
This article is the results of desktop research and a survey of experts carried out during an internship of the first author (FC) at IAMP under the supervision of the second author (PM).