The medical community seems in concordance that the next great challenge for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the discovery of a rapid diagnostic test for Ebola. Bill Frist, the former Republican head of the US Senate and also a cardiothoracic surgeon, puts it most succintly:
A very rapid test would be game-changing for Ebola. Let’s look at triage in a clinic. Everyone comes in the front door together and waits together. Most people have a fever, but they aren’t sure why. Most likely, it’s another endemic infection like malaria, typhoid or shigella. An RDT could quickly identify patients needing quarantine from those who do not. The benefit here is threefold: fast and early quarantine to separate patients at risk for infecting others making the rest of the hospital safer; replacing fear and anticipation with knowledge; and a more efficient use of quarantine resources because they are saved for people with known Ebola infections.
And that's exactly the point. More than 2700 Liberians have died at the hands of this Ebola outbreak. That's fucking awful - it'll likely be more than the number of deaths from malaria this year in Liberia - estimated to be 2900 this year. And these tests need to have a high sensitivity (meaning very low false negatives - i.e. the person has Ebola but the test reads 'negative') and a high specificity (meaning very low false positive - i.e. the person does NOT have Ebola, but the test reads 'positive'). Having low levels of false positive and negative results that people aren't stigmatized unnecessarily and that infected people don't continue to spread the disease, respectively.