By Elizabeth Mullen and Christie Moffatt
This week marks one year since the World Health Organization announced that the deadly outbreak in Guinea was Ebola. To date, the outbreak has claimed over 10,000 lives, the largest Ebola epidemic since its discovery in 1976.
The National Library of Medicine’s role has been to provide information resources to support those working in the field and in the lab, and to support access to scientific research, while at the same time documenting the history and experience of the outbreak as it unfolded as shared with the world through web and social media.
Last October, the National Library of Medicine announced a new collecting initiative to capture and preserve selected born-digital content documenting the 2014 Ebola outbreak. This collection, part of the Library’s broader web archive collection on the topic of Global Health Events, includes web content from Government and non-government organizations, journalists, healthcare workers, and scientists in the United States and around the world, with an aim to collect and preserve a diversity of perspectives on this unfolding health crisis. These communications will serve as primary sources documenting the crisis and a valuable resource to future researchers who wish to understand the current epidemic.
To support research on the history and experience of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the National Library of Medicine has collected news announcements from major health organizations that document the spread of the Ebola virus disease, including the March 23, 2014 World Health Organization announcement of the Ebola virus disease in Guinea; blog posts by health workers serving in affected nations, including with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an organization that has been responding to the West Africa Ebola outbreak since March 2014; websites documenting response efforts, including the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), the UN’s first ever emergency health mission; and news of Ebola as communicated through social media, including Tweets of CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
At the one year mark, the crisis is far from over. Ebola continues to endanger thousands of lives in West Africa and to affect the global community striving to understand and control the disease and provide care and relief to its victims. Just two weeks ago the Clinical Center here at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland admitted an American healthcare worker who had been volunteering services in an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone and who tested positive for Ebola virus disease. This person is the second patient with Ebola to be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center; an earlier patient, Nina Pham, was treated successfully and discharged on October 24, 2014. All around the world scientists, doctors, health workers and advocates are working to save lives now, researching new treatments, and learning valuable lessons that will help us prepare for the future.