Bold International Action Needed to Defeat Ebola

The Ebola outbreak is raging across three African nations – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – and it has already killed more than 3,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) – The Ebola outbreak is raging across three African nations – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – and it has already killed more than 3,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report in mid-September stating that the Ebola death toll could reach up to 1.4 million by January 2015, if the current trends continue.

Given the unprecedented nature of this Ebola outbreak, it is hard to predict the true impact the virus could have on the world. Despite health experts’ attempts to contain the epidemic, this Ebola outbreak, already the virus’ deadliest outbreak in history according to CNN, has the potential to alter history of humanity, as we are now entering uncharted waters.

This is a case when early bold action could have saved lives and money, the New York Times said. But the world hesitated by not devoting enough resources to handle the virus while it was still in its infancy. In the past, Ebola was stopped, and it can be done in West Africa too, said the Washington Post. This crisis in West Africa is less about the virus itself and more about inadequate international response, said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, and Paul Farmer, professor at Harvard University, who also co-founded the non-profit organization Partners in Health.

The thought of Ebola spreading from West Africa to other regions of the world keeps many experts up at night. This particular Ebola outbreak is different from the other 19 outbreaks in the past: previously, Ebola outbreaks occurred in isolation, where it had been much easier to control the infection. Over the last 40 years, Africa has increased its population by an astounding 300 percent, the majority of it in large city slums, according to the New York Times. If the virus manages to spread to one of these mega-cities, such as Lagos, Nairobi or Kinshasa, it could then travel to any part of the world.

The second thought to consider is the possibility the Ebola virus could mutate and become transmissible through the air. Currently, one can only get the virus through direct contact with bodily fluids, said CNN. However, this could change, as viruses have a tendency to mutate, meaning the virus infecting one person can be genetically different from the virus infecting the next. Since there have been more human-to-human Ebola virus transmissions in the past four months than over the last 500 years, each new case of infection is a new possibility for the virus to mutate, wrote Michael Osterholm in the New York Times article, describing the process as a “throw of the genetic dice”.

There have been past recorded instances, when the Ebola virus spread through the air between infected pigs and monkeys, both of whose lungs are quite similar to those of humans. Medical professionals have tried to convince the public that these cases are not to be worried about, arguing that in animals Ebola behaves differently than it does in people, according to the Forbes Magazine. Anything is possible, however, especially considering that this particular Ebola virus is undergoing genetic changes as we speak. If the virus mutates and transmissions through the air become reality, it would become a true nightmare and tragedy for humanity.

The threat of Ebola becoming endemic to West Africa, possibly spreading to other parts of the world and a possibility of the virus mutating to become airborne should be concerning to all to everyone. Some might consider West Africa to be incomprehensibly far, and perhaps rightly so; however in this day and age, when a 12-hour flight is the only thing which separates us from an infected person in West Africa, it becomes too much of a privilege to ignore the situation.

This Ebola outbreak is a reflection of long-standing ineffectiveness of healthcare systems in poor West African countries, as there were just 50 doctors working in public hospitals serving a population of 4.3 million before the Ebola outbreak started in March, according to the country’s ministry of health, the Washington Post said. Hospitals in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone lack staff and resources to deal with the outbreak on their own. To effectively contain the virus, the world needs to cooperate better and come up with a response that is equal to the challenge Ebola has presented. Wealthy western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and others, as well as international organizations, such as the UN and WHO, must partner with governments of West African nations and lay out a clear plan of action.

Thousands of people are needlessly dying. It might seem like the deaths are somewhere far and away, but if the virus spreads to large cities in and outside of Africa, we might start witnessing Hollywood-made apocalyptic movie scenes right in front of us.

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