Despite still being in highschool, Olivia Hallisey has made one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine in recent memory, having invented a ebola detection kit that costs only $25 dollars, and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. The kit works in only 30 minutes and could help health officials get the next ebola outbreak under control more quickly than past outbreaks.
The test kits currently on the market can cost more than a $1,000 dollars a piece, require refrigeration, and can take as long as twelve hours to work. Needless to say, Ms. Hallisey’s kit offers a massive improvement. Given how serious ebola is, this development could save thousands of lives in the future.
The most recent major outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 10,000 lives, and despite a massive mobilization by international health agency, the epidemic has not yet been completely brought under control. Earlier this week two more cases were reported in Guinea and earlier this month Sierra Leone reported another death from the disease, forcing the government to quarantine some 700 people.
With Oliva Hallisey’s new test kit, health officials may soon have a highly effective and extremely useful field tool that will help them identify new cases of ebola. As many of the symptoms of ebola resemble other diseases, such as dengue fever, it can be difficult to track and contain infections.
Hallisey has been awarded for her groundbreaking work, and she was given more than a trophy and medal. Google is offering her a $50,000 dollar scholarship after winning the Google Science Fair, which is open to teens around the world aged 13 to 18 from. The teen hopes to someday be a physician and to assist the poor and disadvantaged by working with Doctors Without Borders or a similar organization.
Ms. Hallis hails from Connecticut and is currently a junior at Greenwich High School. She was one of 20 finalists selected to participate in the science fair.
Tools to fight infectious diseases are especially important given the complicated nature of containing and treating epidemics. The Associated Press recently released the results of a massive investigation into the World Health Organization and its short-comings in handling the crisis.
The AP found that in numerous instances the WHO made easily correctable mistakes. Among other things, the WHO sent faulty equipment into the field, used ineffective disinfectants, and otherwise was weak and flat footed in its response. Dozens of health workers and countless others likely died due to the weak response offered by the WHO.