There is a health crisis of major proportions taking place in West Africa and it is only growing.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 4,300 people have been infected with the deadly Ebola virus and approximately 2,300 have died in the outbreak. The chance the virus spreads and causes an outbreak in the United States is small and it is the belief of some that our advanced public health infrastructure should be adequately equipped to screen for the virus and quarantine and safely care for patients with Ebola.
However, even though most experts stress the chances of the virus spreading to the United States are small, some would argue that a small risk does not mean there is absolutely no risk at all. The world is such an interconnected and globalized society and as a result, it takes just one person that is unknowingly infected with Ebola to get on an airplane, come to the United States and possibly spread the disease to many Americans.
This is why our country needs to take this growing outbreak seriously and help stop it at the source. People can best protect themselves from Ebola and ensure it doesn’t spread to other parts of the world by making concerted and serious efforts to help stop the outbreak in West African countries such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Countries across the globe, such as the United States, have begun to take notice of the growing threat Ebola poses as there is no proven vaccine or treatment currently available and the fatality rate from the disease is a staggering 90% according to the WHO. According to a CNN report, the Centers for Disease Control recently dispatched several teams of public health experts and officials to West African nations experiencing Ebola outbreaks.
The report also indicated these experts will be tasked with performing disease surveillance, health education, contact tracing, and database management. These steps are important to understanding how the virus is acting and spreading and even more importantly, to educate people in the West African nations about how they can protect themselves from becoming infected.
President Barack Obama’s decision to send 3,000 soldiers and military officials to West Africa, which he announced on Tuesday, Sept. 16th is a good one. This move by the President supports the notion that stopping this virus at the source before it can spread to other countries is vital. It also seems to show that the international community is finally waking up to how serious a problem the ebola outbreak is.
In his speech on Tuesday at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the President referred to the disease as a “security threat” and stated: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us.”
Many factors have led this epidemic to be the worst outbreak of the disease in history. The public health systems in the region were already weak before the outbreak however now doctors on the ground are dealing limited staff, little equipment and poor facilities to treat those who are infected.
Even more concerning is the fact that there are high levels of public mistrust and fear about the disease and the response to it. There have been numerous reports of African patients breaking out of hospitals and communities attempting to hide people who are infected. Moreover, the Ebola virus has been able to spread quickly in West Africa due to the porous borders and the cross-border travel between the countries that have been primarily affected.
In order to ensure the Ebola virus doesn’t spread to other countries, such as the US, the United States must continue to bolster the efforts preventing infected persons from crossing into the country and most of all, keeping the virus contained to West Africa.
These efforts can include but are certainly not limited to providing and reinforcing trained medical officials to coordinate and take part in activities on the ground in Africa, educating local communities about Ebola and why it is critical to report infected persons. Supplying basic medical supplies to doctors on the ground, and assisting and advising the governments of West African countries so they can strengthen their public health systems and their ability to control the Ebola outbreaks are also vital moves.
These are just some steps that could be taken to ensure this deadly virus does not continue to spread and does not threaten the United States. It is a difficult task to control an outbreak of this magnitude; however, with the help of the United States and other western nations, it is one that can be accomplished.