We know what stopped Ebola and we know what can stop COVID-19

Proudly supported by

  Last updated April 22, 2020 at 11:09 am

Topics:  

“It’s an infectious disease with human-to-human transmission, so how we control it is entirely based on how our community responds to it.”





Why This Matters: To beat COVID-19 it’s as simple as staying home.




Dr Kamalini Lokuge has 25 years of experience in high-risk epidemics. She has worked in outbreaks of Ebola, Lassa fever and avian flu, and according to the New York Times, was one of the first epidemiologists to draw attention to the scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.


Over the years, the researcher from the ANU Research School of Population Health, has talked regularly about these experiences.


Back here in Australia, people have always been interested to hear these stories, of unimaginable, faraway threats, and the heroes who put themselves in danger to respond to them.


But pandemics aren’t far away anymore.


It was public health measures, not a vaccine that stopped Ebola


If Lokuge’s stories once sounded to us like something from a Hollywood movie then, by comparison, this one is kind of an anti-climax.


“The thing that stopped Ebola was good public health measures,” she says in a recent interview. “It wasn’t a vaccine.”


And the same thing can stop COVID-19. Just good, old-fashioned public health measures to avoid human-to-human transmission.




Also: Headlines promise we’re on the ‘cusp’ of defeating coronavirus – we’re not and it’s too soon to relax restrictions




“I say this always because it’s the fundamental truth,” she continues. “It’s an infectious disease with human-to-human transmission, so how we control it is entirely based on how our community responds to it.”


“The disease will spread if it has the opportunity to spread from one person to another. When we don’t have any medical interventions, the way we stop it spreading is stopping the opportunity.”


“All of us can understand that. It’s not something that you can only understand if you’re an epidemiologist,” she continues.


“That’s the great thing about infectious diseases: once the community understands that it is the key to control, once they are the most important part of the response, they act according to that knowledge, and you end transmission of infectious diseases.”


Kamalini Lokuge


Be the hero by staying home


What she’s saying is, in this story, you get to be the hero. Just by staying home.


“In the news, you see the stories about the people who decided to have a party,” she says. “You never see stories about all the kids who are staying away from school, and are proud of not going to school, so their friends who have to go to school are protected.


“The vast majority of our community are doing the right thing and that’s what makes me optimistic.”


Lokuge believes that if we combine ongoing self-isolation with increased community testing—including the quarantining of those cases and contacts identified via testing—then we can completely eliminate the disease from the community.




Also: We can “shrink” the COVID-19 curve, rather than just flatten it




This means we won’t be stuck at home for the period of ‘six to nine months’, as has previously been suggested.

“I don’t know where that [period of time] came from, but I don’t think it’s going to be that long.”


After a career of being thanked for her roles as a medical doctor and epidemiologist in global health crises, Lokuge concludes with a message for us:


“I just want to thank everybody,” she says to us, the community.


And that’s the ending of this story, the one about what happens next. It’s entirely up to us.


More Like This


Novel coronavirus: what causes a ‘second wave’ of disease outbreak, and could it happen in Australia?


Here’s the maths behind how social distancing flattens the curve




About the Author

ANU Newsroom
The latest and best news from the Australian National University

Published By

Featured Videos

Placeholder
Space technology predicts droughts several months in advance
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Booderee National Park
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Ningaloo Reef
Placeholder
A mix of science and sourdough
Placeholder
How does the crested pigeon make their mysterious alarm sound?
Placeholder
Why do magpies swoop?
Placeholder
Critically endangered swift parrot needs your help!
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Siding Spring Observatory
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Mountain Ash forests
Placeholder
ANU Science On Location: Warramunga Station
Placeholder
Secret life may thrive in warm caves under Antarctica’s glaciers
Placeholder
Scientists help solve mystery of what causes exploding stars
Placeholder
Case Closed: Mystery of How First Animals Appeared on Earth Has Been Solved
Placeholder
Palm cockatoos beat drum like Ringo Starr
Placeholder
Butterfly wings inspire new solar technologies
Placeholder
From window to mirror, on demand
Placeholder
The search for exploding stars
Placeholder
Coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
Placeholder
Join The Search For Planet 9