April 10, 2019 | By Ertharin Cousin

Wait Just a Minute: Ertharin Cousin

In this episode of Wait Just a Minute, Council distinguished fellow and former executive director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin explains the difference between outbreaks, pandemics, and epidemics; what's changed since the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the one happening today; and how political instability impacts health systems.

Wait Just a Minute: Ertharin Cousin


How do an outbreak, an epidemic, and a pandemic differ?

A disease outbreak is when a disease occurs in larger numbers than anticipated in a particular community or particular season. An epidemic is when those numbers are large in that particular community. And a pandemic is when that disease outbreak is global.

How does the current ebola outbreak differ from the one in 2014?

The basic difference is that there're protocols, vaccines, and processes in place to support the response in an effective manner. Biggest challenge is that you're responding in a conflict situation, which means that the risk levels for those who are responding, as well as the community, are much higher.

How does politcal instability affect global health systems?

Lack of political leadership will hinder the communication that is necessary to build the trust that's required between, particularly, external health responders and the community that is potentially impacted by disease.

What gives you hope?

While communication is a challenge, it's better than it's ever been in the history of the global community.

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