U.N.'s Nabarro: Social mobilization key to defeating Ebola outbreak in W. Africa

The man responsible for coordinating the U.N. response against the Ebola outbreak recently said that social mobilization and communication is key to bringing the disease under control in West Africa, where the death toll has surpassed 1,000.

David Nabarro, the senior U.N. system coordinator for Ebola virus disease, said stopping the spread of the virus requires a coordinated "social movement" with participation from all members of society.

"We know from talking to communities that there are certain practices... that are particularly important in enhancing transmission of the virus," Nabarro said, referring to cultural customs that have helped accelerate the spread of the virus among the general population. "And that means by working with the communities, spreading accurate information about how to prevent yourself from being infected, it's possible to enable them to avoid infection. That's where social media is an absolute key approach. These are already being used in the region by health professionals."

So far, the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria has, according to the most recent figures available from the Centers for Disease Control, infected more than 2,400 people and has killed 1,350 people.

Nabarro said that while experimental drugs have been produced to treat Ebola, they have not yet gone through the full range of testing required before they can become available to the general public.

He said the World Health Organization recently convened a number of groups to provide guidance on how to speed up the accessibility of such experimental treatments to help individuals affected by Ebola.

"There is still a lot of distance to go," Nabarro said. "There is still a lot of work to be done. But I am assured by my colleagues in the World Health Organization that they are seeking to speed up access, working with the different producers, and also trying to help mobilize funding to make this possible. So let's watch this space and see what happens. It's certainly an area that's receiving very urgent attention."