The Ebola Outbreak: A Concerning But Solvable Problem

By Danielle Damper Source: West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At first glance, the Ebola outbreak almost seems like a plot for a summer blockbuster: a disease running rampant in Africa reaches contagion in the U.S., airports suddenly fill with testing equipment, images of doctors in Hazmat suits are on every news network, and pundits have started to advocate closing the borders. However, we are not living in a movie, and the Ebola outbreak is something our government can and will handle before we reach that level of mass hysteria.

Now that we are facing the first case of person to person transmission of Ebola in the United States, it is important not to panic, and remember that as a nation, we have the infrastructure in place to prevent a widespread outbreak. Now, it is just a case of choosing what measures to put in place.

Major airports in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC are now utilizing a variety of preventative measures--for example, taking the temperature of everyone arriving in the U.S. from nations affected by the virus. However, I believe these preventative measures will prove to be largely ineffective, and result in more panic than it’s worth. Typically, only 150 people at most travel to America from these areas each day, and these low numbers, plus the fact that Ebola must be spread through contact with bodily fluids, makes it much less likely to spread than the widespread screenings would have you to believe. Secondly, even if an infected person successfully came to the states, symptoms often remain latent for over a week, making it likely that they would make it through screenings anyways.

Even more problematic are those advocating closing the borders of all traffic from infected nations until the outbreak is over. We have entered a period of globalization where it is simply not feasible to use isolation as a preventative tool. Rather than act out a plot of a zombie movie and try to close off our nation, we need to take the smart approach and develop treatment options.

As a nation our health system is far wealthier and more organized than our counterparts in Africa. Our systems are based in large networks, making it easier to transfer information and institute policy changes. Furthermore, as a Western nation, the general population has more access to information on spreading disease and avoiding contact with bodily fluids, making significant spread less likely. So, since we have measures in place to prevent spread, we must focus on finding a cure. Ebola currently has a 90% fatality rate, however drugs like ZMapp are showing signs of progress. Once these drugs are out of the untested phase, we need to launch a full scale offensive, working on eradicating the disease globally rather than keeping ourselves away from the trouble. Simply put, the best way to keep America safe from Ebola is to keep the entire world safe.

Yes, if we ignore the risks, we may find ourselves in danger. However, also cannot jump to visions of doom and gloom and make rash decisions. The best way to control the spread of Ebola is a multifaceted one, we need to educate, and research, and take out Ebola at it source. As a nation we have successfully fought off epidemics in the past, and I believe we will do it again.

[yop_poll id="24"]