Israel over the past month has been playing an increasingly central role in the global battle against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that the UN Security Council recently deemed a “threat to international peace and security.”
Over 6,000 cases of Ebola have been reported and over 3,000 people have died of the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since the start of the year. The actual numbers are estimated to be much higher, though most cases are concealed for fear of forced quarantine.
On at least two occasions in recent months Israel has quarantined people suspected of having contracted the virus during visits to Africa. Both cases turned out to be false alarms.
Israel has dispatched medical teams to Sierra Leone and Cameroon to train local doctors on how to better combat the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone has also requested medication for treating the symptoms of Ebola, and Israel has reportedly promised to provide.
There is no known cure for Ebola, though American drug company Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. has produced an experimental treatment known as ZMapp. The only problem is that the relatively limited supply of ZMapp has been exhausted, and the company says it will take months to produce more.
An Israeli biopharmaceutical company, Protalix, says it is ready to step in and fill the gap.
“Today our production capacity exceeds our needs, and we would certainly be happy to have the company producing the Ebola drug have us produce the drug for them. We would know how to do it effectively, in large quantities, and in a relatively short period of time,” a representative of Protalix told Channel 2 News.
Meanwhile, a smartphone app developed atop an Israeli-made platform is already having a major impact on the spread of Ebola.
Called “About Ebola” and available for both iOS and Android, the app’s makers successfully leveraged the Snapp platform to get the crucial software to market in a mere three days.
About Ebola has since been downloaded thousands of times by medical workers in the field and by residents of the affected areas. It has even been rapidly translated into local rural languages thanks to the flexibility of Snapp.
When the UN Security Council two weeks ago gathered in emergency sessions for the first time ever in response to a health crisis, Ambassador Ron Prosor said that “Israel is proud to be playing its part” in the urgent global effort to defeat Ebola.