What Next for the Ebola Outbreak?
“If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates. It becomes more easily transmittable[…]And then it could be a serious danger to the United States” – President Barack Obama
Search “Ebola” in Google news and there will be no shortage of articles detailing the terrifying risks the outbreak poses for the U.S., continuing to fan the flames of Hollywood-level-pandemic fear. Even CNN, a month ago producing articles titled “Why we shouldn’t fear Ebola,” has begun to change its tune with “Ebola in the air? It could happen.”
As any health official would confirm however, an American panic is far from necessary, or even understandable. Small risks exist for potential carriers of the disease to reach the country, but as the White House reiterated just two days ago, “U.S. health professionals agree it is highly unlikely that we would experience an Ebola outbreak here in the United States, given our robust health care infrastructure and rapid response capabilities.” For the people of the West Africa, the least we can do is not allow our self-centered panic to conflict with the sympathy, support and understanding the region truly requires, because despite the often sensationalized relationship between the U.S. and the Ebola outbreak, fears remain founded in an ever-growing truth for West Africa: the Ebola outbreak is getting worse. Much worse.
Since the world breathed a small sigh of relief at the announcement of Dr. Kent Brantley’s recovery last month, 1,100 more people have died from the disease. To put that into perspective, “only” 1,350 people died between March and late August. With new cases increasing exponentially, the virus’s threat to outpace treatment efforts is greater than ever. “‘Today, there is not one single bed available for the treatment of an Ebola patient in the entire country of Liberia,’ said Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization’s director-general. ‘As soon as a new Ebola treatment facility is opened, it immediately fills to overflowing with patients.”’ In Sierra Leone, widespread skepticism continues to keep pace with the virus itself, as a three-day nationwide quarantine is declared amidst the likely conclusion that even native doctors and aid workers will be left to fend for themselves.
Once again, the world’s eyes turn to the United States. After months of international pressure, President Obama has vowed to increase the country’s response to the crisis, pledging 3,000 more military personnel, and millions of more dollars towards what the U.N. estimates could ultimately result in a billion dollar battle against Ebola. Predictions that the outbreak would get worse before it gets better may be, with this news and a lot of luck, finally on its way towards reaching the positive end of this outlook. But for now Ebola remains a story without an ending.