Ebola Demands Global Response

This week, President Barack Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and announced the U.S. government’s plan to contribute to the ongoing effort to contain the Ebola virus in West Africa, which has been rapidly spreading and has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people to date.

The plan entails sending 3,000 troops to the areas most affected by the virus, committing $175 million to increase the number of health care workers and centers in the areas, training hundreds of health care providers, providing medical supply kits and investing an additional $88 million to fund CDC relief workers, supplies and to develop the experimental drug ZMapp, as well as other vaccine candidates.

“This is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security. It’s a potential threat to global security, if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic,” Obama said.

The announcement marks the first active effort by the U.S. government to directly involve itself in the crisis.

We at the Wheel believe that aid from the U.S. is a necessary step in building health care infrastructures in the African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal, but we feel that this step should have been taken months ago, when the outbreak was first identified and first escalated. The nine-month delay in action calls into question the U.S.’ motivation in providing this aid. Is this a legitimate response to a genuine feeling of moral obligation, or is this an attempt to expand the country’s political capital and prestige? We urge all parties involved to approach this monumental task with the best of intentions ​and with respect for the people and cultures encountered, and to focus on rebuilding the African health care infrastructure in a way that is sustainable and self-sufficient.

This outbreak, which is the largest Ebola outbreak in history, has been deemed a humanitarian crisis by the World Health Organization and is nowhere near close to being over. It has been projected to infect hundreds of thousands people if the world does not take immediate action. Recently, Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American Ebola patient to be treated at Emory University Hospital, criticized the “painfully slow and ineffective” response of the U.S. and even insinuated that international medical communities only seemed to care about the outbreak after he and Nancy Writebol, the second American Ebola patient at Emory, were infected.

Here in the U.S., and specifically at Emory, we are very privileged to have access to sophisticated medical technology that enables us to adequately treat the virus. It is amazing that our hospital has a specialized isolation unit with the appropriate equipment to treat Ebola.

However, the doctors responsible for treating American Ebola patients at Emory Hospital have repeatedly said that any hospital in the country with tertiary care capabilities should be able to treat the virus. The problem is that many African health care facilities do not have even the most basic medical equipment to monitor the virus, let alone to successfully treat any patients. We urge Emory Hospital to extend its efforts to the world and help patients, in addition to American health care workers, have access to treatment and a potential cure.

While it seems as though we are not yet in danger of being infected here in the U.S., the Ebola outbreak is a global problem that requires a global response. In the 21st century, there are no contained regional crises; in the era of globalization, the whole world must recognize that what afflicts some will morally, economically, politically or otherwise, affect others far beyond the borders of any given situation. We are all interconnected, global citizens, and while this crisis may seem far away, its implications are near. Time has run out, and we must act effectively.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.