Ebola is an infectious disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding that is currently spreading through West Africa. There, the death toll continues to accelerate, with 3,069 reported cases and 1,552 deaths since 2014.
A recent survey conducted by the Harvard School for Public Health revealed that four in ten Americans fear that there will be a large outbreak of Ebola in the United States, in which 68 percent believe that Ebola spreads easily. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 68 U.S. Ebola scares in the past month alone. All of these scares have been false alarms. Although the CDC states that Ebola’s spread to the United States is inevitable due to plane travel, citizens have no reason to panic because advanced infrastructure and technology will prevent Ebola from becoming a severe epidemic.
Unlike the U.S., many West African countries suffer from deep poverty, poor healthcare and lack of sanitation that has allowed Ebola to keep spreading. Many of the people affected have never seen Ebola before, do not understand how it is spread and do not trust Western medicine. Sierra Leone, one of the countries most affected, has a population of over six million but has fewer than 200 doctors in its entire public health sector. Guinea has just one doctor for every 10,000 people. These numbers are decreasing since many health care workers refuse to work without basic means to protect themselves from infection. Furthermore, Guinea spends $67 per capita on health care while Liberia spends $20 and Sierra Leone only $16.
This isn’t the situation in the United States. The U.S. pays $8,508 per capita on health care and most citizens can get care if they become sick. In a medical setting, the spread of Ebola can be prevented by using “contact precautions” like gloves, gowns and hand-washing. All U.S. hospitals have intensive care units that fulfill this requirement. However, according to the Huffington Post, “many health centers [in West Africa] and hospitals lack adequate supplies as basic as gloves and gowns, and many also lack the running water or alcohol-based solutions required for health care professionals to cleanse their hands in between patients.”
Ebola’s outbreak in West Africa has caused fear about its arrival in the United States. The main thing one can do to deter the Ebola outbreak is to fix the medical care in West Africa. Measures are already underway to do that. The World Health Organization has promised to fly hundreds more medical personnel into West Africa. The U.S. said it would send 50 public health officials. USAid, the Global Fund, the Rwanda Ministry of Health and a consortium of American universities are currently training emergency medicine and critical care physicians and nurses in Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in Africa. This experience should be an example for the future because it proves that African countries can fix their health care—not overnight, but in time to prevent the next big epidemic.
—Aspegren, a junior, is a Copy Editor.