Riley Murdock ‘15 – As cases of the deadly virus Ebola have continued to spread throughout Africa, the rest of the world stands watching. As fear of the unknown continues, citizens now prepare for a major pandemic. Although most developed countries have efficient measures in place to prevent the spread of volatile diseases, panic spreads via media coverage as the first few confirmed cases in America have emerged.
Ebola first appeared in 1976, in Central Africa. The virus takes its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where one of the first outbreaks occurred in a nearby village. While the initial outbreaks were controlled, the virus retained notoriety for the viciousness of its symptoms; those infected have been known to hemorrhage internally and externally, sometimes from the eyes. Other complications include; jaundice, seizures, comas, delirium, and organ failure. The virus spreads through contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva, blood, and waste.
“From what I’ve read, the virus can mutate to become airborne if left to spread unchecked,” teacher Brett McCarrey said. “I don’t know how credible that is, but if it does, this issue will become a whole lot scarier.”
However, even with the deadly potential of the virus, some aren’t quite so worried about its destructive potential in the United States and Europe. Due to institutions such as the CDC and its international equivalents, developed countries have many measures in place to prevent the spread of diseases and therefore have a much lower risk of harboring a pandemic.
“The threat of Ebola in the United States does not bother me. I feel like our ability to fight viruses is much more advanced than it is in other countries,” Trevor Atkinson ‘15 said.
However, developing countries such as those in Africa currently suffering from pandemics don’t have the funding, organization, or institutional structures in place to prevent the viral spread of diseases like Ebola. In demographics with poor (or little to no access to) education, the populace may be ignorant to the the virus’s symptoms or how it functions, and may unintentionally contribute to its spread through their behavior.
“The idea of Ebola spreading throughout Africa is horrible, especially with the very little medical care that they have,” Brendan Banach ‘16 said. “Hopefully they can find a way to rebound from this and find a cure to what has become one of the biggest threats to human populations I’ve ever seen.”
A Dallas hospital released American “Patient Zero” Thomas Eric Duncan, even though he was exhibiting Ebola symptoms and mentioned recently being in West Africa; Duncan came into contact with several previously unexposed people and later died of the disease. Two nurses at the same hospital, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, became infected after treating Duncan. Pham contracted the virus by touching her face with her gloves after taking off her protective gear, but was recently cleared of the disease. If more care isn’t taken while handling the existing cases, it’s possible that the virus could be allowed to spread further and cause much more damage.
“I think that if you were recently traveling around Africa and have cold-like systems, you should definitely be checked for Ebola,” Ryan Marasco ‘15. “The hospital made a huge mistake.”
While international response to the situation in Africa was initially slow, many countries are stepping up their relief efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO) is organizing efforts to promote awareness of Ebola and fund treatments. The U.S. Marine Corps recently dispatched troops to West Africa to provide supplies, manpower, and transportation to the containment and treatment effort. Even with these added efforts, however, international attention seems to remain focused away from Africa, and some find that not nearly enough help is being given.
“I find it tragic that the world ignores the problems of Africa,” teacher Kim Lamb added. “It feels the West is only worried about Ebola because aid workers contracted it. I trust that the government and pharmaceutical companies will take care of this problem before it becomes a much larger issue.”
As of now, the situation continues to develop. It’s unclear how many people in America were exposed to Ebola, and whether anyone exposed is infected is still yet to be seen. As the infection rages across Africa and the world watches, will we continue to step up our efforts to fight this horrible virus, or will we let it spin out of control?