Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ Spotlights the Crucial Role of Ebola Survivors

The news that Time magazine has named responders to the Ebola crisis as their “Person of the Year” casts an overdue light on an underutilized strength in the battle: individuals who have been infected and survived.

Indeed, such survivors — several of whom were featured by Timemay be uniquely situated to be leaders in the ongoing response, since they might retain antibodies that protect them from subsequent infection with a similar strain of Ebola.

Survivors of Ebola are thus, in effect, perhaps the only people in the world who have been functionally “vaccinated” against the virus. This would give them a critical role to play within the often crowded and desperately poor environments prevailing in West Africa.

In the current issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology, we identify the variety of reasons that survivors may be decisive in overcoming the current outbreak. These might include the ability of survivors to:

• Care for the sick, since they are highly unlikely to be re-infected;
• Work in both public and home-care settings, given their cultural and linguistic knowledge of local conditions;
• Donate blood plasma that may help the newly infected to fight off the virus;
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