Zika: 3 Ebola Lessons That Can Make a Difference

February 1, 2016 By Leslie Tisdale

With the Zika virus spreading rapidly through South and Central America – and with more than 30 cases found in travelers returning to the U.S. – this is an important moment to look back on some global public health lessons that we’ve learned in recent years.

While there are certainly comparisons with Ebola, Zika is a very different disease: it’s transmitted by mosquitoes – not people – and affects pregnant women and their newborn infants.

As the World Health Organization and CDC officials organize the global response to combat Zika, there are a few recent big-picture public health lessons on how we can effectively respond to new outbreaks of diseases. How have investments in public health benefited both the international community and America’s safety?

  • A coordinated and rapid response is a necessity. This has been critical in past epidemics – and the urgency to deploy the right resources and information to affected areas is vital.
  • Global health is a matter of national security. In our increasingly interconnected world, what happens overseas absolutely matters to us here at home. Strategic investments in global public health go a long way to prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases by training doctors, providing medical resources, and disseminating critical information to communities.
  • When the U.S. leads, other countries follow. Our commitment of emergency funds and resources was an international catalyst for providing help to countries facing the deadly impact of Ebola. Bipartisan programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative and the PEPFAR demonstrate the best of American leadership.

The spread of Zika is a threat – especially with the Rio Summer Olympics approaching – but it’s important to note that the only cases now in the U.S. are travelers who were infected by mosquitoes overseas. Click here to read more on the CDC response to Zika.

Going forward, we need to mobilize a rapid response, deploy preventative measures, and strengthen American leadership. Given our underinvestment in Latin America, now is a critical time to step up, not step back, in our support. Our nation’s investments in global health ensure outbreaks are prevented and contained in the future.


Distribution of Zika virus, photo source: Wikimedia